BERLIN (AP) — The prospective partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s next government broke an impasse in coalition talks Tuesday, reaching a consensus over migrants’ right to bring close relatives to Germany.
Merkel’s conservative Union bloc and the center-left Social Democrats hope to conclude coalition talks Sunday. The Social Democrats are seeking to revisit compromises on some issues already reached in preliminary talks in order to make them more palatable to their membership.
Those include whether close relatives can join migrants with a status below full asylum. They can’t now, but that rule expires in mid-March. The two sides agreed that, from August, a maximum 1,000 relatives monthly should be let in, plus people who can be admitted under existing rules for hardship cases.
That’s largely in line with a preliminary agreement that was considered a success for conservatives.
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Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, a member of Merkel’s party, called the agreement a “clever and balanced compromise” that will allow Germany to “fulfill humanitarian responsibilities for families in need” but not be overwhelmed with newcomers.
Volker Kauder, the head of Merkel’s Union bloc in parliament, said the conservatives’ plans on migration had prevailed and “we are satisfied with this solution.”
But the head of the Social Democrats’ youth wing, Kevin Kuehnert, who has been leading a campaign within the party against forming a new coalition with Merkel and who has been pushing for laxer migrant regulations, told the RND media group he was not satisfied with the compromise.
At the moment, he said, it’s “completely unclear” how many hardship cases would be approved.
Once a coalition agreement is finalized, the Social Democrats’ full membership needs to approve it before the new government can be formed.
Fueling skeptics’ concerns, Alexander Dobrindt, a top member of the Christian Social Union, the Bavaria-only sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union which takes a hard line on migration, called the agreement “a key element to further limiting immigration” because it did not redraw the existing regulations for hardship cases.
“We must not overstretch the ability of our country to integrate” newcomers, he said in a statement.