Two weeks after winning elections with a reduced majority, Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed on Sunday to limit Germany’s refugee intake in a bid to unite her conservative camp ahead of tough coalition talks to form a new government.
Merkel’s team huddled with her Bavarian CSU allies led by Horst Seehofer, who has angrily blamed her decision to allow in over one million asylum seekers since 2015 for the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
After 10 hours of closed-door talks, Merkel’s CDU and the CSU agreed they would aim to cap refugees coming to Europe’s top economy at 200,000 a year, according to a draft paper — a formulation close to a long-time Seehofer demand that Merkel had repeatedly rejected.
The goal of the meeting was to settle bitter squabbles so the estranged conservative sister parties can again present a united front in upcoming coalition talks with two smaller parties — the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the left-leaning and ecologist Greens.
In an opening salvo Sunday, the CSU had published a list of demands, including capping refugee numbers.
Merkel had long rejected Seehofer’s signature demand for an iron-cast “upper limit” of 200,000 refugees a year — but late Sunday a deal was shaping up that some commentators dubbed an “upper limit light”.
After hours of talks to square the circle of their competing positions, “a fundamental compromise has been reached”, an alliance source told AFP.