Merkel at odds with her own party over refugees

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Ger­many’s Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union is not on the same page as its leader, An­gela Merkel. Now the party must come to a de­ci­sion on an immigration law,

re­ported. Merkel, chair of the CDU, has suf­fered po­lit­i­cally in the past by chang­ing pol­icy di­rec­tion. The last time was in 2011, when the Chan­cel­lor an­nounced an ac­cel­er­ated nu­clear phase-out, de­spite hav­ing de­layed the clo­sure of Ger­many’s plants just prior.

This had dis­as­trous con­se­quences for Merkel’s party, es­pe­cially in BadenWürt­tem­berg, where the CDU lost one of its tra­di­tion­ally safe seats to the Greens and the SPD.

Four years later and the CDU is re­liv­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence all over again. Once more, it re­lates to a core theme of the party. This time it is “iden­tity”. Again, Merkel’s party is send­ing out con­flict­ing sig­nals and ques­tions will in­evitably be asked as to whether the CDU’s pol­icy is ac­tu­ally cred­i­ble.

Firstly, the Chan­cel­lor opened up the bor­der with Hungary to refugees, which by­passed the EU’s much-crit­i­cised Dublin sys­tem. Then the Ger­man author­i­ties strug­gled to deal with the in­flux of tens of thou­sands of asy­lum seek­ers, which they have been un­able to register prop­erly. Fi­nally, Merkel has reestab­lished bor­der con­trols, sus­pend­ing Schen­gen ar­range­ments on the Aus­trian bor­der, in an at­tempt to deal with the chaos. point that such a “hu­man­i­tar­ian emer­gency” meant that no other course of ac­tion was pos­si­ble. In her party’s na­tional as­so­ci­a­tions, how­ever, the point of view that pre­vailed was that the open­ing of the borders was an ac­tion for which the coun­try was not pre­pared. This per­cep­tion was only re­in­forced, and, con­tin­ued to worry CDU sup­port­ers, when Merkel was pho­tographed at a refugee re­cep­tion cen­tre in Ber­lin, smil­ing and pos­ing for self­ies, in pic­tures that quickly made their way around the net. One par­tic­u­larly bit­ter photo with the cap­tion “Saint Joan of Ara­bia” made the rounds on so­cial media.

Merkel sought to quell the anger that the visit had caused, stat­ing that the pic­tures with the refugees were not planned could not have been pre­vented.

Open crit­i­cism by the CSU of the Chan­cel­lor’s open­ing of the borders was con­sid­ered “un­help­ful” in many cir­cles. At the same time though, it is a view shared by many parts of the CDU it­self. How­ever, the Chan­cel­lor knows that the de­ci­sion to open the borders, as with the post-Fukushima sit­u­a­tion, is an ac­tion that most Ger­mans sup­port. The ri­postes to Merkel’s ini­tial move­ments in­clude CDU fac­tion lead­ers agree­ing on asy­lum cen­tres for refugees from the Western Balkans in ev­ery re­gion, a res­i­dency obli­ga­tion, the re­place­ment of a mon­e­tary al­lowance with a non-cash al­ter­na­tive, and im­me­di­ate de­por­ta­tion of in­di­vid­u­als whose ap­pli­ca­tions are not suc­cess­ful.

Mike Mohring, re­gional chair­man of the CDU in Thuringia, stated, “We are go­ing to do our ut­most to en­sure that the in­flux of refugees and asy­lum seek­ers is lim­ited so as to not en­dan­ger our coun­try’s in­te­gra­tion.”

The fact that the CDU lead­er­ship de­cided on Mon­day that a new immigration law will be dis­cussed at the party’s congress in De­cem­ber, has been de­scribed by party mem­bers as an “un­for­tu­nate sig­nal” that has come at the “wrong time”. Ar­min Laschet, whose party com­mis­sion has worked on the is­sue for a year, de­fended Ger­many’s de­ci­sion to rein­tro­duce bor­der con­trols.

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