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Merkel, Cameron pledge progress on EU reform deal

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK PM David Cameron have agreed that "more work" is needed to strike a deal on governance and immigration in the European Union ahead of the UK's in/out referendum on EU membership. According to a statement from Cameron's office, the UK prime minister said he wanted to land a deal on four key reforms with his fellow EU leaders at next month's European Council summit. "On the UK renegotiation, they agreed that there had been progress since December's European Council and that there was genuine good will across the EU to address the British people's concerns in all four areas," said the statement. "Both concluded that there was more work to do ahead of the February European Council to find the right solutions." The two leaders, who spoke by phone on Monday, also said a strong external European border was vital to dealing with the ongoing migrant crisis. Cameron has promised British voters an in/out referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017. He's vowed to secure reform and campaign for the UK to remain in the 28-nation bloc. The vote could be held as early as June, amid realistic worries of a British exit, or Brexit. Previously, Germany has said the UK's exit from the EU would be a "disaster." Fair deal for the UK? Cameron has highlighted economic governance, competitiveness, immigration and sovereignty as key areas for reform in the EU. As Brussels moves towards a greater financial union, London wants to ensure that those countries remaining outside the eurozone are not disadvantaged. Cameron has also lobbied for tougher social security criteria for new migrants to the UK coming from within the EU, who would only receive welfare after four years. London is also against greater political union and seeks increased powers to block EU legislation, when required. Polls are giving mixed signals about voters' willingness to stay part of the EU. Last week, an ORB poll for "The Independent" newspaper found 52 percent believe Britain should remain in the EU. But similar surveys have shown a majority of voters desire a Brexit. EU leaders are due to hold the next European Council summit on February 18 and 19.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK PM David Cameron have agreed that “more work” is needed to strike a deal on governance and immigration in the European Union ahead of the UK’s in/out referendum on EU membership. According to a statement from Cameron’s office, the UK prime minister said he wanted to land a deal on four key reforms with ... Read More »

Coalition partners: Merkel weak on refugees

Center-left coalition partners the Social Democrats (SPD) have slammed Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU for infighting over her refugee policy. The conservatives have said the SPD is blocking new legislation. Coalition partners the Social Democrats (SPD) issued a challenge to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday to demonstrate stronger leadership. Criticizing the conflict within Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) over refugee policy, the SPD warned that she was creating an atmosphere of "no confidence" in the government. "Angela Merkel cannot allow the government's capacity to suffer because of the infighting in the CDU," SPD Secretary General Katarina Barley told the "Welt am Sonntag" newspaper. "Continuous new and impractical suggestions from the CDU and [Bavarian sister party] the CSU create no confidence," she added. "We need clarity and a rapid implementation of the already agreed upon decisions," Barley said. Merkel under pressure Chancellor Merkel has been under fire from all sides, even within her own party, for her open-door refugee policy that some say led to the violence seen in the city of Cologne on New Year's Eve. Large crowds of men are alleged to have molested hundreds of women, and revelations continue to emerge of similar incidents all across the country. Merkel has backtracked somewhat, such as trying to strengthen border controls, particularly at the country's frontier with Austria, but has continued to receive flak for her inaction, at times from within her own cabinet. Responding to Barley's criticism, the "Welt am Sonntag" reported that CDU Secretary General Peter Tauber said he would "recommend the SPD stop huffing and puffing and then shirking their duty when it comes to making promises." Tauber slammed the SPD for their "blockade of the asylum legislation" and "finally join our initiative to have Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco declared safe countries of origin." Considering many of the suspects from the Cologne assaults were of North African origin, the push to curtail refugees from these countries has taken on renewed steam.

Center-left coalition partners the Social Democrats (SPD) have slammed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU for infighting over her refugee policy. The conservatives have said the SPD is blocking new legislation. Coalition partners the Social Democrats (SPD) issued a challenge to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday to demonstrate stronger leadership. Criticizing the conflict within Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) over refugee policy, ... Read More »

Germany grants residency to ‘crying’ refugee girl’s family – reports

Palestinian Reem Sahwil and her family have been granted a three-year residence permit, a German paper has said. The girl made headlines after crying during a meeting with Chancellor Merkel during a televised forum. Officials have granted Palestinian refugee Reem Sahwil and her family residency in Germany through October 2017, the German newspaper 'Bild' reported on Thursday. The report, which cites Rostock's immigration office, says the teenage girl as well as her father, mother and brother are allowed to stay due to their successful integration into German society. The girl's father now works as an aid to refugees. The report said that the family may pick up the permit in the coming days. Lorenz Caffier, the chairman of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, told "Bild" that he was "satisfied that the residency status of Reem is clarified. The period of uncertainty is over and she can stay here." 'I want to study' Reem, who is reported to be fluent in five languages and an excellent student, told German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a televised discussion in perfect German that her family, who arrived in the northern German city of Rostock from a Lebanese refugee camp four years ago, faced possible deportation. She had said she wanted to study in Germany, but that her future was uncertain. "I want to study, that's my desire," she said. Merkel responded and said that Germany could not admit everyone, which moved the girl to tears. Merkel then tried to comfort the teen by stroking her head and shoulder, which her critics called cold and awkward. After the media storm caused by the event, the girl and her family received a limited residency permit from Rostock until March 2016.

Palestinian Reem Sahwil and her family have been granted a three-year residence permit, a German paper has said. The girl made headlines after crying during a meeting with Chancellor Merkel during a televised forum. Officials have granted Palestinian refugee Reem Sahwil and her family residency in Germany through October 2017, the German newspaper ‘Bild’ reported on Thursday. The report, which ... Read More »

UK PM David Cameron pleads with EU leaders in Brussels over reforms

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has called on his EU counterparts for their help keeping Britain in the bloc. Germany said it was willing to compromise but France criticized Britain for asking too much. At a meeting of all 28 European Union leaders in Brussels on Thursday, the group took a brief respite from discussing the continent's migrant crisis to mull the next looming threat to the Union: the so-called 'Brexit,' or British exit from the EU. Prime Minister David Cameron used the summit to push for a deal to reform the UK's links to the EU that he could take back to London by February and use to persuade lawmakers to act in favor of remaining in the EU in a referendum he has promised to hold by the end of 2017. "Nothing is certain in life or in Brussels but there is a pathway to a deal in February," Cameron told the press after Thursday's dinner in Brussels with the EU leaders. Hollande: British demands are 'unacceptable' Cameron's German counterpart Angela Merkel struck a cautious tone, saying there was a willingness to hear London's concerns but that there were some values, like the free movement Britain wants to restrict, that could not be amended. "We made it clear that we are ready to compromise, but always on the basis that we safeguard the core European principles, which include non-discrimination and free movement," she said. French President Francois Hollande was even more direct about what he considered Britain's "unacceptable" wish for special rights within the EU. "If it is legitimate to listen to the British prime minister, it is unacceptable to revise founding European commitments," said Hollande. Pace of refugee redistribution irks Austria The rest of the meeting on Thursday was focused on handling the migration crisis across the 28-member bloc as unrest in the Middle East and northern Africa has seen almost a million people seek refuge within their borders. The EU has agreed to a tentative deal to help ease the burden on major migrant destinations by redistributing around 160,000 asylum seekers across the group, but reluctance to implement the measures from central and eastern member nations has seen the process slow down to what other nations have criticized as an unacceptably slow pace. Austria even threatened financial penalties to countries which refuse to cooperate. "All the elements of an immigration strategy are there, but there is still a delivery deficit," said EU President Donald Tusk. "Implementation is insufficient and has to be speeded up," read the joint statement from all member nations at the end of the day's meeting, with a warning that a lack of solutions could place the bloc's free-travel Schengen Zone in jeopardy.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has called on his EU counterparts for their help keeping Britain in the bloc. Germany said it was willing to compromise but France criticized Britain for asking too much. At a meeting of all 28 European Union leaders in Brussels on Thursday, the group took a brief respite from discussing the continent’s migrant crisis to ... Read More »

Seehofer defuses refugee row with Merkel, despite upper limit demand

After months of pot-shots at the chancellor, Christian Social Union leader Horst Seehofer has pledged support for Angela Merkel, but he still wants a refugee cap. Kate Brady reports from the CDU conference in Karlsruhe. With the awkward memory of his own party conference last month still fresh in his mind, the CSU leader could not have been expecting a particularly warm welcome from his larger sister party, the Christian Democratic Union, at their party conference. In Munich last month, Seehofer had renewed his attack on Merkel’s refugee policy while both leaders were on stage, an uncomfortable incident that reminded some in the German press of watching a school girl being scolded by her teacher. But on Tuesday, it was Seehofer’s turn to tread Merkel’s stage. Entering the trade fair arena in the southern German town of Karlsruhe, the Bavarian leader was greeted with a smattering of applause that was no match for the double standing ovation that Merkel got the day before. The CSU leader’s appearance at the CDU congress came just a day after Merkel had delivered a triumphant speech that seemed to have won back the recalcitrant elements of her center-right party who were beginning to reveal their discontent with her refugee policy. The resounding support from the delegates followed the announcement of a resolution aimed at reducing the number of refugees arriving in Germany. Seehofer still applying pressure "Thank you … for my very friendly welcome," Seehofer began, to a roar of laughter from the CDU delegates. For Seehofer, the refugee crisis was only one topic on the agenda. Describing the issue as one with "many faces," the Bavarian premier said it was "difficult to provide the population with a black and white solution." "The German people are only interested in whether we will succeed in noticeably reducing the numbers of asylum seekers," Seehofer told the party conference, reiterating that changes must come soon. Renewing his previous demands for an upper limit on the refugee influx, Seehofer said the CSU was still in favor of a cap, despite Merkel's motion only to "reduce" the number of asylum seekers. Without a limit, Seehofer insisted that it would be impossible to resolve "the problem ... in an intelligent, humane and sensible manner, and in the foreseeable future." "There is no nation on earth that accepts refugees without a limit, and even Germany will not manage this sustainably. That's my message," Seehofer said. 'Excellent chancellor' Despite his continued demands for a cap, Seehofer pledged the CSU's support to the CDU, saying that he saw Germany's conservative faction - which has been united since for over 65 years, on a "common path." As German society begins the challenge of integrating the estimated one million refugees who have crossed the border in the past year, Seehofer insisted that the success of integration lay not only in the hands of the German population but also in those of the new arrivals. "Those who have the right to asylum must want to live with us and not near or against us," Seehofer said. Brushing his differences with Merkel aside, Seehofer went on to praise the chancellor, saying that Germany had an "excellent chancellor," who represented the country as "first class around the world." 'Symbol of coherence' Jesse Jeng, a CDU delegate from Hannover, told DW that his faith in the unity of the two conservative parties had been restored. "I thought it was good that Seehofer tried to bring everything back together," he said. "And I think this close unity with the CSU will be upheld when facing future challenges." Similarly, Hamburg CDU representative Dinah Stollwerck-Bauer said Seehofer's message was a "symbol of the coherence between the CDU and the CSU," adding that the shared aim of the two parties had always been there. "I think we always had the same goal," she said. "In politics, controversial discussion of an issue belongs to a good debate. We want to advance the subject of refugees in Germany and achieve successful integration." Wind in her sails Merkel was all smiles as she escorted Seehofer to the exit on stage. Jens Spahn, parliamentary state secretary at the Finance Ministry, told DW that the CDU conference "had put the wind back in her sails." With the support of her party members restored, Merkel is now facing the next European Union summit on Thursday, where leaders are expected to address the UK’s potential exit from the bloc. Closing the conference on Tuesday, however, Merkel embraced the festive season, wishing her delegates Merry Christmas. "This did us all good,” the chancellor said.

After months of pot-shots at the chancellor, Christian Social Union leader Horst Seehofer has pledged support for Angela Merkel, but he still wants a refugee cap. Kate Brady reports from the CDU conference in Karlsruhe. With the awkward memory of his own party conference last month still fresh in his mind, the CSU leader could not have been expecting a ... Read More »

Merkel’s response to migration crisis in focus at CDU party congress

Angela Merkel is due to address her party, the Christian Democratic Union, at their annual conference. Her speech will be scrutinized as she faces criticism from within the CDU over her handling of an influx of migrants. The German chancellor and CDU party leader is due to take to the podium shortly after 11a.m. (100UTC) on Monday. There, in the southern German city of Karlsruhe, she will face her in-party critics as she addresses a defining issue of her tenure as chancellor: the refugee crisis. Ahead of Monday’s party conference, the buzzword in Karlsruhe has beem "Obergrenze" or an "upper limit" on the number of people granted asylum - something which the CDU's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CDU), has repeatedly called for in recent months. CSU party leader Horst Seehofer has described Merkel’s policy of not capping the number of refugees in Germany as "a mistake." Compromise of 'effective measures' The chancellor has repeatedly rejected calls from CSU leaders, however, resulting in ructions within the Union. Speaking at the CSU conference in Munich last month, Merkel described the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees as "perhaps the biggest challenge we have had since German unification." In an interview with German broadcaster ZDF on the eve of the party conference, however, Merkel confirmed reports that the CDU executive had agreed on a compromise formulation. The resolution, which is due to be submitted to the party's delegates on Monday, states that the CDU is determined to reduce the arrival of asylum seekers and refugees through "effective measures" that will not include setting a fixed limit on how many can come. "I’m very pleased that the foundations, which I consider to be relevant to the question of asylum policy, have been confirmed," Merkel told ZDF, adding that the resolution focuses on combating the causes of flight, protecting external European Union (EU) borders and finding a European solution. At a press conference late on Sunday, General Secretary of the CDU, Peter Tauber, supported his party leader's commitment to her asylum policy, insisting that Merkel’s famous "we can do this"-attitude was still valid if "everyone makes the effort." One millionth asylum seeker registered In recent weeks, the number of asylum seekers crossing the German border has reached 10,000 a day. According to Germany’s national refugee database, the one millionth migrant to arrive in Germany was registered in Bavaria at midday on Tuesday. Critics claim, however that there are already far more, with some avoiding the authorities and others caught in a backlog of paperwork. As an interim measure to reduce the huge influx of refugees to Germany, countries such as Albania and Serbia have already been declared "safe," in a bid to allow authorities to deport them more quickly back to their countries of origin. Prior to Monday’s party conference, the CDU’s youth wing (JU) said it still hoped to renew its proposal for a cap on the number of refugees in Germany. JU leader, Paul Ziemiak, said at last month’s CSU party conference in Munich, "The refugee crisis is the greatest challenge of our time." Public majority in favor of limit According to opinion polls, it would appear that Ziemiak is not alone. A recent survey by pollsters Emnid for the "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper found that 62 percent of Germans wanted a fixed upper limit, with 36 percent opposed. On the eve of the CDU party conference, the proposed limit on refugees remained a talking point for locals in the congress' host town, as they gathered at a local Christmas market. "At the moment I would definitely support a limit," 64-year-old Mrs. Coombes told DW, adding that the government should reassess the situation in the future. "We already have a challenge ahead of us, as we need to successfully integrate the refugees into Germany," Coombes said. Despite the controversy over the Chancellor's handling of the refugee crisis, the pensioner said she still supported Merkel. Business student Hauke Kaufmann opposed the limit, however. "What other choice do these people have?" he asked. "People need to remember why these refugees are coming here. They’re not economic migrants," the 26-year-old said, insisting at the same time that the rest of the European Union (EU) still needed to step up their efforts in taking in more refugees. As Merkel vies for the confidence of her party and voters on Monday, however, the focus will not be on the efforts of Europe, but on those of the German chancellor.

Angela Merkel is due to address her party, the Christian Democratic Union, at their annual conference. Her speech will be scrutinized as she faces criticism from within the CDU over her handling of an influx of migrants. The German chancellor and CDU party leader is due to take to the podium shortly after 11a.m. (100UTC) on Monday. There, in the ... Read More »

World leaders hail Paris climate pact

Envoys from 195 nations have approved a historic accord in Paris to slow global warming. Climate experts say implementation will be next challenge. The accord agreed Saturday sets a target of limiting warming of the planet to "well below" 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) compared with the Industrial Revolution. World leaders say the Paris agreement is the most ambitious since the climate initiaitve began in 1992. German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the deal as a sign of hope. "With today's adoption of the climate agreement the global community has for the first time committed itself to the fight against global climate change," Merkel said in Berlin. "Paris will always be connected with this historic turning point in climate policy." US President Barack Obama called the agreement "historic" and said it represented a pragmatic chance at reversing centuries of damage. "This agreement represents the best chance we have to save the one planet that we've got," Obama said. The agreement sets an ultimate target of keeping global average temperatures within 1.5 Celsius within pre-Industrial Revolution levels. Green groups said they hope this would lead to the planet turning away from its reliance on fossil fuels and continued momentum to tackle climate change. "This deal alone won't dig us out the hole we're in, but it makes the sides less steep," Greenpeace International chief Kumi Naidoo said. Retooling energy production from dirty coal, oil and gas to renewable like solar and wind will require investment. At issue was who would pay for it. Richer countries have agreed to muster at least $100 billion (92 billion euros) a year from 2020 to help developing nations. The fine print - implementation But even as world leaders delivered glowing platitudes and backslapping, climate scientists say that, even if the pledges are fully honored, earth will still likely be on track for temperatures exceeding safe limits. "The diplomats have done their job: the Paris Agreement points the world in the right direction, and with sophistication and clarity," said Jeffrey Sachs, director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York. "It does not, however, ensure implementation, which necessarily remains the domain of politicians, businessmen, scientists, engineers, and civil society." That view was echoed by Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research as he weighed the prospects for the planet to reach the 1.5 degree Celsius target. "It will be up to business, consumers, citizens and particularly investors to finish the job," Schellnhuber said. That will mean real political will to phase out fossil fuels. That's because climate models suggest the world will have to all but stop polluting with greenhouse gases by 2070 to reach the 2-degree goal, or by 2050 to reach the 1.5-degree goal. "It means that in the end, you have to phase out carbon dioxide," Schellnhube said.

Envoys from 195 nations have approved a historic accord in Paris to slow global warming. Climate experts say implementation will be next challenge. The accord agreed Saturday sets a target of limiting warming of the planet to “well below” 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) compared with the Industrial Revolution. World leaders say the Paris agreement is the most ambitious since ... Read More »

A star-studded Paris summit makes far-fetched promises

World leaders kicking off the UN climate conference in Paris have talked a lot about a moral duty to save the planet. Now, negotiators have to work out how that translates into a global climate treaty. It is not unusual that climate conferences start off with resounding speeches and fervent appeals. But what set this first day of the climate conference in Paris apart from other such events was the fact that these appeals were delivered not by environment ministers, but by some 150 heads of state and government. "It is on your shoulders that the hopes of all humanity rest," French President Francois Hollande told his counterparts from around the world. And US President Barack Obama urged fellow world leaders to "rise to the moment." Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in general less emotional, said that concluding a universal climate change agreement in Paris was "a question of the future of humanity." Merkel's statement The chancellor also said there was a need for "far-reaching" decarbonization of the global economy - a statement climate activists said should be taken with a grain of salt. "When chancellor Merkel says we must decarbonize and get off coal, oil and gas, we support that," said Kumi Naidoo, head of Greenpeace International. "But the detail that we want to hear is that we can get to that point by 2050," Naidoo added. Merkel spoke of decarbonization "by the end of the century." She also called for a climate agreement that was "ambitious, fair and binding." "I found it interesting that Merkel said she wants to see a review of national pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions before 2020," said Christoph Bals of the NGO Germanwatch. "The position of the European Union has been that the first review should take place only in 2023. By calling for an earlier date, Merkel is putting pressure on the EU to improve on its climate targets for the decade starting in 2020." A different view from China? For his part, Chinese President Xi Jinping said it was "imperative" to respect the differences among countries and that developing nations should not be denied their "legitimate needs" to grow. But Xi also talked about "win-win situations" in following low-carbon growth paths. Germanwatch's Bals interpreted this as a positive change from the rhetoric used in past climate conferences. "China used to say that fighting climate change is a burden that others should bear," Bals said. "Saying that through technology transfer it can be turned into an opportunity means putting a whole new spin on things." "At the climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009, China said emissions would continue throughout the century," Greenpeace's Naidoo said. "Now they have made a commitment that emissions will peak by 2030 at the latest - and that is a pretty big shift." 'Let's get to work' President Obama reaffirmed the US's commitment to help developing nations embark on low-carbon growth paths, and pledged $50 million (47 million euros) to a fund supporting the world's poorest countries. "We embrace our responsibility," Obama said, acknowledging the US's role in climate changes as the world's second largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and ending his statement with an appeal to negotiators to "get to work." Overall, Bals said, "there was little of substance in Obama's speech." Concepts to speed up negotiations The getting to work that Obama called for was facilitated by a move of the French presidency to get procedural questions addressed prior to the event's formal opening, enabling true negotiations to start right away. Bals called this an "innovative" approach that might prevent negotiators from spending "two or three days" on tactical maneuvering. The longtime observer of climate conferences added that, though many of Monday's statements might not have contained many surprising or specific elements, they should not be seen as mere "showcase speeches." "The delegations will be held to what their leaders have said," Bals said, "and if a delegate says something contradictory, the presiding chair can refuse this position for backtracking on a leader's statement." The aim is to present a consolidated text on Thursday. But many take this as an ambitious goal, and a lot of obstacles have to be overcome to achieve it.

World leaders kicking off the UN climate conference in Paris have talked a lot about a moral duty to save the planet. Now, negotiators have to work out how that translates into a global climate treaty. It is not unusual that climate conferences start off with resounding speeches and fervent appeals. But what set this first day of the climate ... Read More »

CSU forces Merkel into uncomfortable refugee dialogue

Officially, Angela Merkel is not backing away from her open-door policy toward refugees. However, a discussion aimed at limiting the influx of refugees is long underway. It's high noon in the Union, and Chancellor Angela Merkel is publicly under fire. She has become vulnerable. But the humiliation that her junior partners at the Christian Social Union subjected her to this weekend at their party congress was unlike anything that any previous German chancellor has had to suffer. CSU boss Horst Seehofer reprimanded Merkel for her "Yes we can" policy much like a schoolteacher would a student in front of the class - and he did it on camera for the whole world to see. The CSU wants to limit the number of refugees that Germany takes in; Merkel does not. One could say that the situation represents a maximum possible conflict. And that conflict is raging within Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), as well. That is the backdrop against which the debate over refugee policy in Germany is now taking place. Capping is all the rage at the moment. Now, even the CDU's youth wing has taken a stance against Merkel. In fact, for the Young Union (JU), even the CSU's demands don't go far enough. The up-and-coming Christian Democrats want explicit caps. The JU fears that otherwise a "very real threat to our ability to assess ourselves will arise." They say that the federal government and the states should come to an agreement on exactly where the limit should be set. The CDU will be holding its party congress in three weeks, and it has been a long time since there was such infighting among the Christian Democrats. More than anywhere else, skepticism about Merkel is growing loudest in the states. Reiner Haseloff, Saxony-Anhalt's CDU state premier, is calling for a cap that "bears our capabilities in mind." He says the limit for his state would be 12,000 refugees per year - including family members who join relatives already in Germany. The common denominator Slightly to Merkel's left, her Social Democratic (SPD) coalition partners also want to assert their control over refugees. SPD parliamentary group chairman Thomas Oppermann is making the case for a limit. According to his plan, the Bundestag, the EU and the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees would set annual limits. The theory behind the plan is that refugees would no longer have to risk their lives in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas and human traffickers would be driven out of business. Oppermann says limits should be determined by "how many people we can actually integrate." But limits are already in place. They have just been pushed to the side as Germany moved to accommodate as many refugees as possible this year. In 2013, some 10,000 Syrians came directly to Germany from refugee camps in Lebanon. In 2014, that number doubled. Yet, during that same time, hundreds of thousands of Syrians took the Balkan route to Germany, creating a situation in which uncontrolled entries existed parallel to the established process. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere now wants to look very closely at Syria. The official word from his ministry is that many Syrians arriving in Germany are not really Syrians. The minister himself pegged this number at somewhere between 20 and 30 percent of new arrivals. But the fact of the matter is that there are no statistics on the actual number of "fake Syrians" currently in the country. At the moment, enforcing limits is the one thing that most factions in the grand coalition government can agree on. The idea has its advantages politically. In a practical sense, it is a bartering arrangement between Germany and its neighbors. The European Union could agree to take in large contingents of refugees while also covering the cost of caring for those who remain in Turkey . In exchange, Turkey would be required to re-establish control over its border with Europe. The advantages are clear: fewer refugees and increased control. And control is desperately needed. Asylum processing in Germany has effectively ground to a halt. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), the agency responsible for the processing of asylum applications, simply cannot keep up. Of the 181,000 refugees who arrived in October, only 31,000 asylum applications have been able to be processed. A total of 328,000 are currently on hold. It takes an average of 5.2 months to process an application. Add to that the several months before an application can even be submitted. BAMF reportedly needs to create about 9,000 new positions if it is to complete the task - this year all of 1,350 new openings have been approved. At the same time, European asylum law has failed. The Dublin Regulation, which stipulates that each refugee is required to file for asylum where he or she first reaches EU soil, has proven unworkable. Italy and Greece, the main points of arrival in Europe, are objectively overwhelmed. Since the Arab uprisings began in 2011, many refugees have preferred to journey across the western Mediterranean; this year they have also taken to the Aegean. EU solidarity in taking in refugees arriving in Italy and Greece has remained nonexistent despite the fact that it was promised. The European Commission recently announced that it intends to present a reform plan in March 2016, to help Italy and Greece.

Officially, Angela Merkel is not backing away from her open-door policy toward refugees. However, a discussion aimed at limiting the influx of refugees is long underway. It’s high noon in the Union, and Chancellor Angela Merkel is publicly under fire. She has become vulnerable. But the humiliation that her junior partners at the Christian Social Union subjected her to this ... Read More »

Chancellor Angela Merkel asks CSU party to stick with CDU allies in helping refugees

Angela Merkel has called for Europe to unite to help refugees and fight terrorism. The German chancellor made her remarks at the annual conference of her right-wing coalition partnerd, the Christian Social Union. At the Christian Social Union party conference Friday, Merkel called the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees "perhaps the biggest challenge we have had since German unification." The CSU is the more right-wing, Bavarian sibling party of the chancellor's Christian Democrats (CDU), and Merkel's calls for European unity seemed as much intended to bridge a growing gap within her own coalition. "Today our country is stronger than ever, our economy is growing soundly, our labor market is robust," Merkel said on Friday, noting that a reunified Germany had just celebrated 25 years last month. "Just imagine what Germany would be like without our parties." The CSU has led criticism of Merkel's asylum policy , and many had expected the chancellor to defend her decision to allow Germany to take in hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing contact this year . Defend them she did, although she appeared to give several verbal concessions to the CSU's calls for a less-open door. "No one leaves their home lightly, not even those who come to us to pursue a better life economically, who cannot stay with us here, who do not require protection," Merkel said, referring to so-called economic migrants. To scattered applause - and her speech seemed to have few applause points - Merkel added that "we will have to return them, we will have to deport them, even if it can be done with a friendly face." Merkel also took a moment to express Germany's solidarity with the victims of recent attacks in Paris and Mali. "We will be investigating all of these crimes," the chancellor said. And, referring specifically to last week's multipronged assault in France, she said: "This attack on liberty wasn't just an attack on Paris - we are all the targets." 'No other way' Ahead of Merkel's speech in Munich on Friday, CSU leader and Bavarian State Premier Horst Seehofer again demanded limits on the numbers of asylum applicants who enter Germany . Merkel's decision to open the borders to refugees fleeing conflict and unsustainable conditions in Africa and the Middle East has triggered tensions between the chancellor and CSU leaders. A key motion for the roughly 1,000 delegates attending the CSU congress called for a fixed refugee quota. However, the motion did not set out a specific number. "However you look at it, there is no other way than to introduce a limit or a ceiling," Seehofer said on Friday. In the past, Merkel's Bavarian counterpart has described the chancellor's refugee policy as "a mistake." On Friday, Merkel said there would be no limit. The chancellor has repeatedly rebuffed calls from CSU leaders to place an upper limit on the number of refugees entering Germany, which in recent weeks had reached about 10,000 a day. The state of Bavaria, which borders Austria, has become a primary entry point for people reaching Germany via Southern Europe. Speaking in Bavaria on Friday will not prove Merkel's last intracoalition challenge for the year. Next month comes the annual conference of her CDU, in which her stance on refugees has also come under fire. Many analysts see the tensions between Merkel and the CSU as contributing to the recent slide in support in opinion polls for the CDU-CSU bloc.

Angela Merkel has called for Europe to unite to help refugees and fight terrorism. The German chancellor made her remarks at the annual conference of her right-wing coalition partnerd, the Christian Social Union. At the Christian Social Union party conference Friday, Merkel called the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees “perhaps the biggest challenge we have had since German ... Read More »

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