Merkel deputy says German government’s ability to act threatened

Migrants and refugees are seen aboard a Turkish fishing boat as they arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea from theTurkish coast to Lesbos October 11, 2015. — Reuters pic
Migrants and refugees are seen aboard a Turkish fishing boat as they arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea from theTurkish coast to Lesbos October 11, 2015. — Reuters pic

BERLIN, Oct 30 — A dispute over how to handle Germany’s flood of migrants was jeopardising the government’s ability to act, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said in an interview.

Merkel and Horst Seehofer, the leader of her Bavarian sister party, have frequently clashed over how Germany should deal with the estimated 800,000 to 1 million it expects this year, many of them from war zones in the Middle East.

Merkel, the leader of the Christian Democrats (CDU), has favoured an open-door policy and declares Germany can cope. Seehofer, head of the Christian Social Union (CSU) in Bavaria, the entry point in Germany for many of the migrants, has said the existence of the conservative bloc was at stake if she did not “correct” her asylum policy.

Gabriel, leader of the Social Democrats, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, said in an interview with Spiegel Online that the conservative parties were acting “irresponsibly” and creating even more uncertainty among the population as fears mount that Germany cannot deal with the new arrivals.

“Given the big challenge our country is facing due to strong immigration of refugees, the dispute between the CDU and CSU is now threatening the ability of the government to act,” he said.

“The longer the dispute in the conservative bloc lasts, the more people will turn away from politics and the more ground the right-wing radicals will gain,” Gabriel, who is also Germany’s Economy Minister, said.

The conservatives have declined in opinion polls in recent weeks, with a Forsa poll showing them dipping two points to 36 per cent support, their lowest level in three years. Recent surveys have shown the right-wing anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) gaining support.

Earlier this week, Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Soeder said the relationship between the CDU and CSU was going through its trickiest patch since 1976, when there was a major fight between former party leaders Helmut Kohl and Franz-Josef Strauss which nearly led to a split.

Seehofer is due to meet Merkel tomorrow to discuss refugee policy and they will then hold talks with Gabriel. — Reuters