Europe News

Merkel's Bavarian allies praise tougher migrant stance but say it's not enough

BERLIN (Reuters) - The Bavarian party allied to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat Union (CDU) on Thursday welcomed the CDU’s tougher stance on the integration of migrants but urged it to go further to restrict arrivals and up deportations.

Bavarian Prime Minister and head of the Christian Social Union (CSU) Horst Seehofer gestures after his speech at CSU party congress in Munich, Germany November 5, 2016. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

The CDU and Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU) together form the conservative faction in the Bundestag lower house of parliament, but the two parties are at odds over how to deal with last year’s record migrant influx to Germany of 890,000 people.

Their rift persists as the CDU wants to improve relations with the CSU ahead of a 2017 election and regain support lost to the far-right, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD).

In a hardening of her stance on migrants’ integration in Germany, Merkel this week called for a ban on full-face Muslim veils “wherever legally possible” and the CDU passed a resolution on tackling forced marriage and honor killings, and cracking down on dual citizenship.

“The overall development is good,” CSU leader Horst Seehofer told German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

But Seehofer said differences remained and called for the deportation of a “demonstrable number” of refugees. He also reiterated his demand for a cap to be placed on the number of migrants coming here. Merkel has rejected such a cap.

Since announcing last month that she will seek a fourth term in office next year, Merkel, 62, has enjoyed a rise in support. A Dec. 5-7 survey of 1,504 voters by pollster Infratest for broadcaster ARD showed 59 percent welcomed her decision to run.

In a contest for chancellor against Sigmar Gabriel, leader of the Social Democrats (SPD), Merkel would win 57 percent support to his 19 percent, the poll showed.

Support for Merkel would slip to 43 percent if she faced the SPD’s Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament who is returning to German politics, rather than Gabriel.

The survey put support for Schulz at 36 percent in a dual with Merkel. The chancellor needs to resolve her party’s differences with the CSU to run a united campaign.

CSU member Manfred Weber, who also heads the conservative European People’s Party (EVP) in the European Parliament, told taz newspaper the CSU would not join a coalition with the CDU after next year’s election without a deal on a migrants cap.

But the CDU’s firmer stance on migrants attracted criticism from the opposition.

Sahra Wagenknecht, a prominent member of the far-left Linke party, accused the CDU of simply adopting the policies of the AfD: “Instead of finally getting on with actually dealing with the causes of migration, they prefer to copy the AfD program when it comes to asylum issues,” she told German news agency DPA.

Reporting by Christian Goetz, Ralf Bode and Michelle Martin; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky