Merkel Reaches Deal With Coalition Partners to Limit Refugees

  • German Chancellor's deputy warns against `political hysteria'
  • Sweden says it may deport almost half of 2015 asylum seekers

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reached a deal with her governing partners to end a dispute over how to manage the influx of refugees that threatened to tear apart her coalition.

Merkel on Thursday brokered an agreement with the other leaders of her three-party coalition to reduce the inflow of asylum seekers by not allowing the families of refugees already in the country to join them for two years, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, who heads the Social Democrats, told reporters in Berlin. They also agreed to expand the list of countries to which refugees can safely be sent back.

QuickTake Europe's Refugees

Gabriel pushed back earlier in the day against a warning this week that the coalition could collapse, saying Germany has a “stable government.” Gabriel and Merkel hammered out the deal in Berlin with Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer, who heads the Christian Social Union.

The arrival of more than 1 million refugees in Germany last year has triggered a political brawl over how to reduce the influx while integrating those who’ve fled war and oppression. The upheaval throughout Europe, which is facing its biggest migrant crisis since World War II, was also laid bare in Sweden, which said Thursday it may reject 70,000 of the record 160,000 asylum seekers who made their way to the country in 2015.

Looming over Merkel’s open-door stance on refugees was a threat by Seehofer’s Christian Social Union to challenge her policy in Germany’s highest court. Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the smaller CSU form a single parliamentary caucus in Berlin, governing in a coalition with the junior Social Democrats.

The CSU’s challenge drew a rebuke from the Social Democrats’ caucus leader this week, who for the first time suggested that the move could bring down the coalition.

“What Seehofer is doing amounts to a breach of the coalition,” Thomas Oppermannsaid Tuesday. He also warned that Merkel’s CDU and the SPD would have enough seats to govern without the CSU, which would be an unprecedented alignment in post-World War II Germany.

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