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Rivals seek to stop Petry power play as split AfD meets

Alternative for Germany boss Frauke Petry faces mounting internal opposition. Sunday's convention will determine how the AfD's power struggles play out. Pressure is growing on the party from outside, as well. Overall, things are looking good for Alternative for Germany (AfD). Founded in 2013, the party has profited from growing security fears and the dialogue surrounding the asylum policies put in place by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. An additional 1,000 voters joined the AfD's 24,000-strong ranks in the second half of July - a possible reaction to unrelated attacks in Würzburg, Munich and Ansbach, two of which were committed by young men who arrived as refugees. Polls give the party 10 percent. Despite the good news for the AfD, an internal power struggle has been raging for months. The party was at risk of breaking up in summer 2015, when co-chief Frauke Petry ousted founder Bernd Lucke. This turned off AfD supporters, causing the party's popularity to plummet. It was only after discontent with Merkel's refugee policies began to increase that the AfD was able to grow its numbers again. Now, Petry faces her own internal challengers: co-Chairman Jörg Meuthen and the further-right AfD state bosses from Brandenburg and Thuringia, Alexander Gauland and Björn Höcke, respectively. The men hope to check Petry's power and ensure that she doesn't become the AfD's main candidate in the 2017 general elections. The anti-Semitism situation A controversy involving an AfD member in Stuttgart has been roiling since early summer. Meuthen and eventually 13 other deputies formed the Alternative for Baden-Württemberg after AfD members failed to vote out the retired doctor Wolfgang Gedeon, who had been called upon to step down following anti-Semitic statements. Petry attempted to mediate, but things went quickly awry: Meuthen unsuccessfully tried to have her banned from the regional parliament. The struggle in Stuttgart and the possible next steps are on the agenda for Sunday's closed-door convention. No press is allowed, and even the party's top spokesperson is being kept out. Höcke and Gauland have already spoken out against a future party conference, calling it a distraction and bad for unity in the run-up to next year's national elections. However, Petry seems to feel that the majority of AfD members are standing behind her. She is seeking to model the party on Austria's far-right Freedom Party, which most members seem to support, though Höcke opposes. Staking the party's fortunes to nationalism could scare off voters and push the AfD back toward the 5 percent minimum required for parliamentary representation. A simple majority vote at the upcoming convention is required to call for a special party conference. That would take place in the fall, after important state elections in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Berlin. The party has double-digit support in Berlin and is polling at near 20 percent in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania - not far behind the Social Democrats (SPD) and Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU). A strong showing in these state elections would be a good indicator of things to come in national elections, said Manfred Güllner, the head of the German polling company Forsa. The threat from the AfD has pushed the CDU rightward, with the ruling party now pushing for measures to restrict migration and keep tabs on refugees. The AfD has accused the CDU of stealing from its platform with the new measures. The SPD is also trying to win back support that it has lost to the AfD. Merkel's refugee policies have upset voters, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania's SPD state premier Erwin Sellering told Spiegel Online. The chancellor has created the impression that Germany must take in an unlimited number of refugees - and that anyone who opposes that is "labeled a right-wing extremist or idiot," he said.

Alternative for Germany boss Frauke Petry faces mounting internal opposition. Sunday’s convention will determine how the AfD’s power struggles play out. Pressure is growing on the party from outside, as well. Overall, things are looking good for Alternative for Germany (AfD). Founded in 2013, the party has profited from growing security fears and the dialogue surrounding the asylum policies put ... Read More »

German President Joachim Gauck backs new security proposals

German President Joachim Gauck has said he supports a raft of new security measures proposed earlier this week. Speaking in a TV interview, he also backed the refugee policy of Chancellor Angela Merkel. German President Joachim Gauck has thrown his support behind a security package put forward by Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere earlier this week In an interview with broadcaster ZDF that airs on Sunday, Gauck said that like de Maiziere he was against debating laws prohibiting Muslim women from covering their faces, a burqa ban and rescinding citizenship of some dual nationals for a broad array of terror crimes. Germany must evaluate various security threats and determine whether they justify curbing the freedoms of citizens, Gauck said. De Maiziere put forward a new security package on Thursday in response to a recent series of violent incidents and potential security threats from migrants. An axe attack on a train near the Bavarian town of Würzburg on July 18, claimed by the self-declared "Islamic State," injured several travelers. Less than a week later, in a separate attack, a man set off an explosive device near an open-air music festival in the Bavarian town of Ansbach, killing himself and wounding a dozen others. At the time, authorities said an Islamist motive was "likely." Germany no 'sinking ship' Despite any number of problems in Germany, Gauck said the country was still strong. "The country is not like a sinking ship in the middle of a powerful hurricane," Gauck said. "Rather, there are just gusts of wind rocking the boat." These gusts of wind confuse society and make some people feel unsecure, he added. Still, the president said he backed Chancellor Angela Merkel's oft-repeated phrase, "We can do it," to described the country's ability to handle the refugee crisis. "The chancellor and I follow the same line, we only use different language," he said.

German President Joachim Gauck has said he supports a raft of new security measures proposed earlier this week. Speaking in a TV interview, he also backed the refugee policy of Chancellor Angela Merkel. German President Joachim Gauck has thrown his support behind a security package put forward by Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere earlier this week In an interview with ... Read More »

Summer over for Merkel: Putin, Erdogan, Seehofer await

Will Angela Merkel get another term as Germany's chancellor? That will depend a bit on how things unfold when she gets back to Berlin from summer vacation on Monday. Her support has already taken a hit. A number of matters await German Chancellor Angela Merkel upon her return from summer vacation. Displacement from the five-year conflict in Syria, a civil war in Ukraine and a post-coup crackdown in Turkey - none of these has improved in her absence; as expected, they've gotten worse. For one example, tensions between Russia and Ukraine have increased over the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014. The Kremlin has accused Ukraine of conspiring with "saboteurs" to launch attacks. Ukraine has countered with the same accusations. Though it has been impossible for outside organizations to independently verify the claims, Russia has already threatened retaliation and Ukraine's troops are on alert. The UN Security Council is taking up the matter. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is looking for support from his most important European partners. In February 2015, Merkel and French President Francois Hollande helped guide the two sides toward a resolution in Minsk. However, implementing that has lagged. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently said it would be "completely nonsensical" for the four countries to hold any further meetings. And yet Merkel wants to continue pushing for a diplomatic solution that would involve equal parts pressure on and dialogue with Russia. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier could present new diplomatic options following his trip to Moscow on Monday. 'Extraordinarily difficult' Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has used the July 15 coup not only to consolidate his power, but also to criticize Germany's leaders at every opportunity. Merkel has unwaveringly defended the refugee-swap deal that the European Union struck with Turkey in spring, but the souring relations between the nation and the bloc have left its future in question. The issue has domestic relevance in Germany, which is a major destination for people displaced from nations such as Syria. A majority of respondents in a recent poll said they were unsatisfied with Merkel's asylum policies. About 16,000 refugees arrive each month. That's fewer than the 90,000 who came at the beginning of the year, but it still means that 238,000 have sought refuge in Germany in the first several months of 2016. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees estimates that another 200,000 people will apply for asylum 2017. Strongly connected to the refugee situation is the internal rift between Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sibling party, the Christian Social Union. CSU Chairman Horst Seehofer has criticized Merkel's asylum policy since the beginning. As the months have gone by, he has gotten louder in his criticism of the chancellor. Now Seehofer has upped the ante, hinting that he might run as a candidate for chancellor in 2017. His popularity among voters is currently solid, while Merkel's has dipped, in particular after a string of unrelated attacks in July, two of which were committed by young men who had arrived as refugees. A series of party conferences are planned for the fall to bridge differences. The CDU's standing has fallen with Merkel's. Polls put the party at 35 percent. In an effort to take votes from the right-wing Alternative for Germany, Merkel announced new domestic security measures at her summer press conference in July. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has since elaborated on them - including asylum and integration policies. The Social Democrats, who govern with the CDU and CSU in a grand coalition, must agree to the proposals, as well. A possible ban on burqas, the full-body garments worn by some Muslim women, could play an important role at the CDU party conference in December.

Will Angela Merkel get another term as Germany’s chancellor? That will depend a bit on how things unfold when she gets back to Berlin from summer vacation on Monday. Her support has already taken a hit. A number of matters await German Chancellor Angela Merkel upon her return from summer vacation. Displacement from the five-year conflict in Syria, a civil ... Read More »

Poll: Merkel down, Seehofer up, AfD and Greens steady

Support for Angela Merkel has plummeted, according to a new survey conducted after a series of violent attacks rattled Germany. The chancellor has lost 12 points since the last DeutschlandTrend survey, from early July. Support for German Chancellor Angela Merkel (above, left) is at a six-month low, according to the latest DeutschlandTrend poll. The chancellor's support stands at 47 percent, down from 59 percent the last time the poll was conducted on behalf of the German public broadcaster ARD in early July. The poll was done after a series of unrelated attacks by men who had at various times applied for asylum in Germany. Merkel defended Germany's refugee policies during her annual press conference last week, saying she had made the right decision in allowing hundreds of thousands of people to seek asylum in Germany since last summer. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they were unsatisfied with Merkel's asylum policies, though the poll did not allow for nuance or specific reasons. Thirty-four percent said the country was on the right course with its refugee policies - the lowest number since pollsters began asking the question last fall. By the numbers The poll showed support for Bavarian State Premier Horst Seehofer (right in photo), who recently criticized Merkel's sanctuary policies. His approval rating was up 11 points, to 44 percent. Sixty-four percent said politicians for Seehofer's Christian Social Union (CSU), which operates in an uneasy alliance with Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), worked more toward the party's interest than for the success of the government. Overall, support for the CDU-CSU union stood at 34 percent, with the Social Democrats (SPD) at 22 percent. Ninety-one percent of respondents criticized the ongoing spats within Germany's grand coalition government, made up of the three parties. The non-governing Greens had 13 percent support, and the Left had 9 percent; for non-Bundestag parties, the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) received 12 percent and the business-first Free Democrats stood at 5 percent. Merkel's ratings dipped to 46 percent in February during another outbreak of fears over foreigners. However, in a demonstration of the fickleness of German public opinion, her support recovered - soared, even - after Britain's vote to leave the European Union in June and a coup attempt in Turkey last month. The DeutschlandTrend survey brought good news for Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble; the men had a 71 percent and 60 percent approval rating, respectively. Steinmeier is down three points from last month, while Schäuble lost four. Baden-Württemberg State Premier Winfried Kretschmann, of the Greens, also made it to the positive side, if just, with 51 percent support, down four points from April. Polling institute Infratest dimap surveyed a representative sample of 1,003 eligible voters on August 1 and 2.

Support for Angela Merkel has plummeted, according to a new survey conducted after a series of violent attacks rattled Germany. The chancellor has lost 12 points since the last DeutschlandTrend survey, from early July. Support for German Chancellor Angela Merkel (above, left) is at a six-month low, according to the latest DeutschlandTrend poll. The chancellor’s support stands at 47 percent, ... Read More »

Merkel: ‘Not concerned’ about future of EU-Turkey migrant deal

German Chancellor Merkel has said the migrant deal agreed by the European Union and Turkey will go ahead as planned. Her comments come in response to threats by Ankara to nix the agreement over a visa-free travel row. Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday she was "not concerned" about the future of the controversial migrant deal reached between the European Union and Turkey, even as tensions rise between Germany and Turkey over the particulars of the agreement. Shortly after a meeting with her cabinet, Merkel told journalists the deal would go ahead as planned, despite threats from Turkey that the agreement may not last. Merkel said more time would be needed for the deal to be fully implemented. "But in any case we are on the right page when it comes to our arrangements," she added. Threats from Ankara The pact hit a new bump in the road after Turkey's parliament approved legislation that stripped certain lawmakers with ties to the Kurdish PKK party of their political immunity. The move drew condemnation from members of the international community, who saw it as an example of Erdogan trying to consolidate power and diminish the influence of the country's embattled Kurdish minority. Omer Celik, Turkey's new minister in charge of relations with the EU, said Wednesday that the bloc was applying "double standards" concerning his country's fight against terrorism and added that Turkey's EU membership would be important but was not the country's "only option." On Monday, the EU said it was suspending its plans to implement visa-free travel for Turks, saying Ankara had not made the necessary reforms on freedom of the press and the judiciary in time. That deal would see Turkey's 75 million citizens allowed to enter the Schengen zone for up to 90 days without a visa. Erdogan responded on Tuesday by suggesting that Ankara would put an end to the migrant deal altogether. As part of the agreement, Turkey has said it would take back refugees arriving in Greece from Turkey. In return, the EU said it would provide Turkey up to 6 billion euros to house and care for refugees.

German Chancellor Merkel has said the migrant deal agreed by the European Union and Turkey will go ahead as planned. Her comments come in response to threats by Ankara to nix the agreement over a visa-free travel row. Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday she was “not concerned” about the future of the controversial migrant deal reached between the European ... Read More »

German state elections: Success for right-wing AfD, losses for Merkel’s CDU

Official results show significant success for the populist right-wing AfD in three key state elections. Chancellor Merkel's CDU saw losses in two out of three states; attributed to her refugee policies. The right-leaning AfD managed to enter all three state parliaments, winning double-digit percentage results in Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt, according to official results. More than 12 million Germans were eligible to vote in the polls to elect new regional parliaments in the three states. Saxony-Anhalt The AfD won 24.2 percent in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt, making it the second largest party after the ruling CDU, which managed to win 29.8 percent. The SPD meanwhile was dwarfed to 10.6 percent, behind the Left Party which won 16.3 percent. The current prime minister of Saxony-Anhalt, Reiner Haseloff, said that the results showed a clear mandate for his CDU party to lead a coalition government. "We are going to build a strong, center government in Saxony-Anhalt," he said. "We need to deal with the issue as mainstream parties and find a solution." The current coalition of CDU and SPD, however, cannot continue, as the two parties together do not hold a majority of the seats in the state parliament. At the same time, the state leader of the Left, Birke Bull, described the projected results for her party as "bitter." "We have failed to convince the electorate," she said. Rhineland-Palatinate In the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate the ruling SPD is set to remain in power, with final results putting them at 36.2 percent. The conservative CDU, led by Julia Klöckner, lost around three percent, putting it at 31.8 per cent. The Greens barely managed to cross the five percent threshhold needed for representation in Parliament. Meanwhile, the AfD managed to win 12.6 percent. The SPD-frontrunner Malu Drayer refused to answer a question on the issue of post electoral coalitions. "I am not going to lean towards anything today - today, I am going to celebrate," she said. DW's Kate Brady reported celebration from the scene at the SPD headquarters. Baden-Württemberg In Baden-Württemberg, the ruling Green Party gained a substantial 30.3 percent, while the CDU, which ruled the state for almost six decades until 2011, lost a dramatic 11 percent bringing it down to 27 percent. The AfD also managed to win 15.1 percent in the state, putting it in third place before the SPD, currently the junior coalition partner in government, which fell to 12.7 percent (from 23) in 2011. Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg Winfried Kretschmann described the results as a historic victory for the Green Party. "I see this plebiscite as an assignment to once more establish the state government and provide the premier," he said. Because of the SPD's losses it will not be possible for the current coalition to continue. The so-called "Super Sunday" is largely billed as a referendum on Merkel's open door policy towards refugees, which saw more than a million people arrive in Germany last year. The policy has proven divisive, both among the German public and within Merkel's CDU. The chancellor has rejected measures such as imposing a cap on new arrivals, favoring instead a plan to distribute refugees across the 28 European Union member states. CDU in trouble? Pre-election surveys had suggested the CDU and its coalition partner, the SPD, could take a hit across the board, while the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) was expected to win seats in all three states. In its traditional support base, the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg, the CDU appeared set to lose to the Greens, with support for the party dropping by around 10 points to 29 percent. Meanwhile, the AfD had an 11 percent approval rating. Guido Wolf, the CDU's leading candidate in the southwest, said this year's election campaign was the "most difficult" the party has had to run. AfD surge in support The AfD leader Frauke Petry told German public radio that her party is not expecting to enter government in any of the three states. "We have been set to work from the opposition since long before this election," she said, adding that this position was quite normal for a young party. "This election shows that numerous voters are turning their backs on well-established parties," she said. The populist right-wing AfD campaigned on an anti-immigration platform, and has sought to scoop support from voters disillusioned with the Merkel government's stance on refugees. In comments that provoked an international outcry, the party's leader Frauke Petry suggested earlier this year that police should fire at refugees "as a last resort," to prevent unregistered asylum seekers entering the country. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere meanwhile had cautioned voters against backing the AfD, saying its call to close the borders "harms our country." "The AfD has no political concept and no competence in terms of finding solutions" to Germany's problems, he told "Die Welt" newspaper.

Official results show significant success for the populist right-wing AfD in three key state elections. Chancellor Merkel’s CDU saw losses in two out of three states; attributed to her refugee policies. The right-leaning AfD managed to enter all three state parliaments, winning double-digit percentage results in Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt, according to official results. More than 12 million Germans were ... Read More »

Merkel criticizes closing of Balkan route

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has criticized Balkan nations for closing borders to migrants. In the past 24 hours four Balkan states have closed their borders to migrants without documents and EU visas. After Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia closed their borders to migrants over the past day, Merkel said Wednesday the Balkan nations' measures to stop the flow of migrants would be unsustainable without a broader EU response to the refugee crisis. Closing borders "is not the solution to the entire problem," Merkel said. Rather there must be an agreement among the EU's 28 members, she said. Merkel's comments clashed with European Union President Donald Tusk, who earlier had welcomed the change, saying the Balkan states were simply implementing an important part of the EU plan to tackle the refugee crisis. Several hundred thousand refugees and economic migrants have plied the Western Balkan route over the past year, many on their way to Germany after making the Aegean crossing to Greece from Turkey. The Western Balkan nations have slowly been reducing the number of refugees allowed through their frontiers for weeks, culminating in the closing of borders this week to halt the flood of irregular migrants. The domino effect comes as EU leaders at a summit on Monday said the irregular migrant flows along the Balkan route "have now come to an end." At Merkel's urging, the summit statement distinctly avoided using the word "closed." The strategy has left thousands stranded between borders or without a clear way forward. In Greece alone, the number of marooned migrants is estimated to be around 36,000. The restrictions have also reduced the number of migrants arriving in Germany.´ Germany is pinning its hopes on a broader EU deal with Turkey, in which Ankara would accept Syrian and other migrants from Greek islands in exchange for EU countries taking some Syrians directly from Turkey. The migrant deal also includes financial aid to Turkey and political concessions on visa liberalization for Turkish citizens and the acceleration of Ankara's EU bid.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has criticized Balkan nations for closing borders to migrants. In the past 24 hours four Balkan states have closed their borders to migrants without documents and EU visas. After Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia closed their borders to migrants over the past day, Merkel said Wednesday the Balkan nations’ measures to stop the flow of migrants ... Read More »

Julia Klöckner – the successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel?

Ahead of Rhineland-Palatinate's state election, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has turned out to support her party's candidate to lead the state. But just who is Julia Klöckner? "We didn't plan the jackets beforehand," Julia Klöckner said to rapturous laughter. Standing beside the German chancellor in near matching red jackets, the Christian Democratic Union's (CDU) hope for the state of Rhineland-Palatinate said the pair had, however, seemingly dressed appropriately for Germany's red wine region. With only days to go until Sunday's pivotal state election in Rhineland-Palatinate, the CDU's leading ladies came out in force on Wednesday for a final campaign push. For Merkel, who in addition to being chancellor is also the head of the CDU, the upcoming vote is the party's chance to oust the Social Democrats (SPD) after 25 years in office. For Klöckner, a win on Sunday is likely to hurl her career forward, making her a prime candidate to become Merkel's successor. A trained journalist, studied theologian and former "German Wine Queen"? Just who is Julia Klöckner? Youth factor The daughter of a local winemaker from the western German town of Guldenthal, Klöckner began her political career at the age of 24 when she joined the CDU's youth arm. Just five years later in 2002, she became a member of the Bundestag - Germany's lower house of parliament - before taking on the role of parliamentary undersecretary in the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection. Following the CDU's disastrous 2006 state election in Rhineland-Palatinate, the party found a beacon of hope in Klöckner and in September 2010, appointed her as the fraction's leader - bringing a burst of youth to a somewhat antiquated party. Two years later she was elected as the CDU's deputy federal chairwoman. Now surveys show her running neck-and-neck with SPD candidate and current Premier Malu Dreyer. A poll released Wednesday showed both politicians receiving 35 percent of voters' support. 'Our Julia' Since entering the Bundestag, Klöckner's likability among the CDU electorate has grown enormously - largely thanks to her balancing act between the modern and the conservative. While Klöckner has reserved the streak of conservatism that devout CDU voters have missed in recent years, she has also strived to bring modernity to the party. Her staunch pride for her home region and local dialect has also brought her closer to the people, with many of her supporters referring to her with a familiar fondness as "our Julia." 'Modern conservative' For others, Klöckner looks to widen prospects for young women in Germany. She has made calls for a legally enforced gender quota in public traded companies and criticized fad diets in fashion and lifestyle magazines. Klöckner has her bases covered. After Merkel's three terms in office, another successful woman in German politics could be seen as a force to be reckoned with. A sticking point for many a women's rights campaigner, however, is the CDU member's public opposition to abortion. Similarly, despite condemning discrimination against homosexuals and advocating the equal tax treatment of registered homosexual partnerships, Klöckner opposes full adoption by gay couples, as well as same-sex marriage. As the 1995/96 "German Wine Queen," the 43-year-old has also used her experience in the media to her advantage, seizing the ongoing refugee crisis to move ever-nearer to the CDU's center stage. Klöckner makes no bones about her ambitions and continues to increase her presence in federal politics. Her proposals for the refugee crisis alone are evidence of that. Controversial integration law Following the New Year's Eve sexual assaults in Cologne, the issues surrounding Europe's migrant crisis found a new dynamic, leaving it a firm topic on Klöckner's campaign agenda ever since. With no apparent fear of ruffling a few feathers, Klöckner has continued to press for a legal binding "duty of integration," which requires asylum seekers uphold the values of German society and demands migrants to learn the German language. "Anyone who can't uphold these principles," Klöckner said on Wednesday, has "obviously chosen the wrong country." In January, Klöckner also proposed an alternative refugee policy, known as "A2" - plans that have challenged the chancellor's widely disputed asylum open-door policy. While managing to sound like a Merkel critic, indicating that she takes her citizens' concerns seriously, Klöckner still succeeds in remaining loyal to the chancellor or "dear Angela," as Klöckner calls her, by supporting Merkel's European refugee policy plans. Until Sunday, however, Klöckner and Merkel must remain comrades in arms with only one short-term goal in sight: to see out the Social Democrats in Rhineland-Palatinate.

Ahead of Rhineland-Palatinate’s state election, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has turned out to support her party’s candidate to lead the state. But just who is Julia Klöckner? “We didn’t plan the jackets beforehand,” Julia Klöckner said to rapturous laughter. Standing beside the German chancellor in near matching red jackets, the Christian Democratic Union’s (CDU) hope for the state of Rhineland-Palatinate ... Read More »

Chancellor Merkel travels to Ankara to hold talks on refugee crisis

German Chancellor Merkel travels to Turkey to discuss new measures to manage the refugee influx into the EU. The meetings come as tens of thousands of refugees are hoping for asylum along the Turkish-Syrian border. Merkel will hold talks with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the capital Ankara, hoping to find solutions to slow down the refugee flow. Merkel has strongly endorsed last year's EU deal with Turkey, which would see Turkey receiving 3 billion euros ($3.35 billion) in aid in exchange for Turkey helping Europe to protect its borders. The agreement, signed in November 2015, intends funds to flow towards the care of the 2.7 million Syrian migrants already in Turkey. But in the last week alone tens of thousands of fresh Syrian refugees have arrived at the border with Turkey, many seeking safety from the bombing of the city of Aleppo. Turkey has closed its border in response to the latest influx, saying it couldn't deal with such a sudden increase in refugee numbers. With pressure mounting, Turkey might reluctantly open its borders again despite claiming that it has reached maximum capacity for housing migrants. Turkey wants more in aid The Turkish leadership had already declared after the signing of last year's agreement that the EU funds earmarked for Turkey's containment of the refugee crisis would not be sufficient. It is not clear whether the subject of further aid agreements will be featured during Merkel's meeting. Countless refugees made their way into Europe via Turkey last year, with Germany accepting more than 1.1 million people seeking asylum in 2015 alone.

German Chancellor Merkel travels to Turkey to discuss new measures to manage the refugee influx into the EU. The meetings come as tens of thousands of refugees are hoping for asylum along the Turkish-Syrian border. Merkel will hold talks with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the capital Ankara, hoping to find solutions to ... Read More »

Criminal refugees to be deported to third countries

Germany plans to allow the deportation of refugees convicted of crimes to third countries if they cannot be safely returned to their country of origin. It is unclear, however, how far-reaching the new rules might be. Germany's head of the Chancellery, Peter Altmaier, told the weekly mass-market newspaper "Bild am Sonntag" that the government was working on plans to allow for the deportation of criminal refugees to nations other than their countries of origin, if their home countries were deemed unsafe to return to. Altmaier, who is also in charge of coordinating Germany's refugee crisis response , said the government's plans would mostly affect migrants who came from countries ravished by war. He said convicted migrants would be sent to the country "from which they had originally entered the EU." "We are in negotiating with Turkey and with other countries and discussing ways for them to take back refugees from other countries," he told "Bild am Sonntag." He added that in the future even minor transgressions could lead to refugees being sent out of Germany. The new guidelines could potentially extend to people who might face persecution, torture and capital punishment in their countries of origin. German asylum laws currently do not permit the deportation of people to countries where they face such threats to their personal freedom and lives. Reducing migration Altmaier highlighted in the interview with the newspaper that 50,000 refugees had been deported from Germany since the beginning of 2015, with many of them originating from the Balkans. Deportations to Balkan nations are generally less legally taxing for German authorities as the countries have been declared safe countries of origin. Altmaier also told "Bild am Sonntag" that Germany's policy of sending migrants back to safe countries of origin would likely be extended to those arriving from Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. "We will be sending unequivocal signals, as we did in the case of the Balkans, telling Algerians, Tunisians and Moroccans that it is not worth coming to Germany," Altmaier said. Altmaier further explained that German authorities had started to measure changes in migrant movements. He said the number of asylum-seekers arriving in Germany via Turkey had decreased significantly by 60 percent. However, the paper challenged Altmaier on that statistic, saying that the harsh conditions during winter would be the main reason for this, which the minister conceded could be regarded as part of the reason. Merkel to 'win elections again' Recent polls revealed that German Chancellor Angela Merkel's popularity had fallen to an all-time low , but Altmaier remained confident that the chancellor would successfully weather the refugee crisis. "We will deal with all the challenges posed by the refugee issue and remain the strongest party and win elections again," he said. Merkel, meanwhile, announced that she expected most refugees to understand their stay in Germany was temporary , underscoring that the majority of arrivals in Germany had fled violence from the self-declared "Islamic State" (IS) in Syria and Iraq. "We expect that you will return to your homes when peace returns to Syria and when IS is finally defeated in Iraq," she said at a party meeting in the federal state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

Germany plans to allow the deportation of refugees convicted of crimes to third countries if they cannot be safely returned to their country of origin. It is unclear, however, how far-reaching the new rules might be. Germany’s head of the Chancellery, Peter Altmaier, told the weekly mass-market newspaper “Bild am Sonntag” that the government was working on plans to allow ... Read More »

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