Merkel Resists Allies’ Pressure to Cap Number of Refugees Entering Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) sits with German television company ARD presenters Tina Hassel (unseen) and Thomas Baumann (R) at the beginning of the ARD summer TV interview, in the ARD headquarters, in Berlin, Germany, 16 July 2017. Photo: Felipe Trueba/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • German Chancellor Merket has refused to set a limit to the number of Middle Eastern migrants arriving to claim refugee status.
  • Her refusal is likely to set her on a collision course with Horst Seehofer, leader of the CSU, her party CDU’s Bavarian sister party, a traditional ally.
  • Merkel says she intends to rule Germany for another four years after the elections in September.
  • She has described a deepening rift in relations with Turkey as very unfortunate but seems to approach it in a conciliatory manner.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is hoping to win a fourth government term in the elections this fall, has ruled out setting a limit to the number of “refugees”, or migrants, who are allowed to enter Germany.

Merkel has been heavily criticized at home and abroad for declaring in 2015 what in essence has been an open-door policy for migrants from the Middle East claiming to be refugees – many rightfully so, and many not really – from the ongoing Syrian Civil War.

As over 1 million migrants claiming to be refugees made it to Germany and other EU countries such as Sweden in 2015, the European Union’s Schengen Area system – stipulating free movement across most European borders – was massively overwhelmed.

As the bulk of the 2015 wave of refugees and illegal immigrants arrived in Europe via the Turkey – Balkans – Central European route, in March 2016, the EU made a deal with Turkey under which the latter agreed to prevent Middle Eastern migrants on its territory from reaching the EU.

Italy, which is situated on the other major migrant route into Europe, the Mediterranean route, recently stated it had reached a “saturation point”, while Austria said it was going to send the army to block migrants from crossing its border with Italy.

Chancellor Merkel, who has been in power in Germany since 2005, is nearing the end of her third four-year government term.

She is the leader of Germany’s Christian Democrat Union (CDU), which is allied with its sister party from Bavaria, the Christian Social Union (CSU).

Her present Cabinet is one of a “grand coalition” with her party’s supposed main ideological opponent, the SPD, the German Social Democrat Party.

In 2005-2009, Merkel also ruled in a grand right-left coalition with the SPD, while in 2009-2013, she relied on the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) for running another coalition Cabinet.

Based on public opinion polls and recent wins in German provincial elections, she is expected to win a fourth term in the general elections in September, regardless of the criticism of her immigration policy.

No Limit

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has turned down calls from her party’s Bavarian sister party, the CSU, to limit the number of refugees, or migrants claiming refugee status, from entering Germany.

Merkel refused to set an upper limit on refugees that the country can accept, speaking in an annual interview broadcast on Sunday, as cited by DW.

Distancing herself from the position of her conservative Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), Christian Democrat Union leader Merkel, said setting a limit on refugees was not the way to go.

“As far as an upper limit is concerned, my position is clear: I will not accept it,” she said, arguing that migrant numbers could be reduced by regulation and taking action to prevent the situations that cause people to flee one country for another.

That position sets her on a collision course with CSU leader Horst Seehofer who has threatened not to enter into the traditional coalition with Merkel’s CDU without an annual upper limit for refugee numbers.

Merkel said she planned to lead Germany for at least the next four years.

“No one can say what life will bring, but I certainly intend to continue for four years,” she said in response to a question concerning voters’ expectations of her being able to fulfill her vision for Germany.

 ‘Before Drawing Conclusions’

In her interview, the German Chancellor also touched upon a wide range of other issues, including the ongoing diplomatic rift with fellow NATO ally Turkey.

At the beginning of July, Germany began withdrawing its forces from NATO’s Incirlik Air Base in Southern Turkey, after Turkey repeatedly prevented German Parliament members from visiting them.

The German military, as part of Western efforts, had been using Incirlik as its key base for reconnaissance missions against the ISIS terrorist group (“Islamic State in Iraq and Syria”).

Last week, however, Turkey also refused to give German lawmakers access to Bundeswehr (German military) troops serving on AWACS surveillance planes at the NATO base in Konya which had been scheduled for Monday.

Turkey asked for a delay, citing the tense state of German-Turkish bilateral relations.

In her interview, Merkel refused to link the issue of extradition of Turks seeking political asylum in Germany from persecution at home with access to Konya in talks with Ankara.

She said the two issues were completely unrelated. The question of asylum and the right to visit German troops have “nothing, but nothing to do with each other,” Merkel said.

“Before we draw conclusions, we should first wait for talks and discuss these things with NATO’s help,” Merkel said.

 “This whole issue is unfortunate, very unfortunate,” the German Chancellor stated.

Last Friday, NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged the Turkish and German foreign ministers to resolve their differences over visits to Turkish air bases

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