Germany's Schaeuble, Gabriel Disagree on Tighter Asylum Rules

  • Merkel's coalition differs over refugee family reunions
  • Schaeuble calls for restrictions, says Germany can't do more

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel were at odds over stricter asylum rules for some applicants from Syria, just days after Chancellor Angela Merkel defused a rebellion in her ruling coalition against her open-door refugee policy.

QuickTake Europe’s Refugee Crisis

Speaking on German ARD public television on Sunday, Schaeuble and Gabriel disagreed over a proposal by Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere to grant refugees from Syria who aren’t individually persecuted a limited asylum status that restricts family reunions in Germany.

“Family reunions can and must be restricted for people who are granted subsidiary protection, and that’s the large majority,” Schaeuble said. “This is a necessary decision and I’m very much in favor that we find agreement on this in the coalition quickly.”

De Maiziere cast doubt on a lasting compromise in the coalition over the weekend, telling N-TV television that the government should consider granting some Syrians only temporary asylum and limiting family reunions. Merkel earlier extracted a compromise from her coalition partners to set up migrant processing centers in Germany, in which the Social Democratic Party, led by Gabriel, prevailed.

Left, Right

“Every time we reach an agreement, shortly thereafter there’s a new proposal that wasn’t on the table before,” Gabriel said on ARD, adding his party can’t agree to a proposal that wasn’t previously discussed in the coalition. “That leads to a situation in which Germans get the impression that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing in the government.”

As many as 1 million people are expected to seek shelter in Germany from war and poverty in their homelands. Merkel, while having pledged to do everything to stem the flow, has ruled out closing borders or placing upper limits on the numbers who qualify for asylum. A European Union report last week said the influx could boost Germany’s economy by 0.1 percentage point this year and 0.4 point in 2016.

Schaeuble and Gabriel agreed the EU needs to regain control over its borders and set quotas for refugees who would then be distributed among the bloc’s members.

“We are close to the limit of our capabilities,” Schaeuble said. As long as there’s no coordinated distribution within Europe, “we must send the message to the countries where the refugees are coming from that they shouldn’t be misled, that not everyone can come.”

Support for Merkel’s Christian Union bloc was unchanged at 36 percent in an Emnid poll published Sunday in Bild am Sonntag newspaper. Support for Gabriel’s SPD rose 1 point to 26 percent while the Greens held at 10 percent, the Left Party fell 1 point to 9 percent and the anti-euro Alternative for Germany party rose 1 point to 9 percent. The Free Democrats, Merkel’s former coalition partner, remained at 4 percent, below the 5 percent threshold for parliamentary representation. Emnid polled 2,442 people from Oct. 29-Nov. 4; no margin of error was given.

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