Angela Merkel’s negotiations on forming a new coalition government in Germany have run into renewed trouble over migration.
Marathon talks over the issue lasted nine hours and went on into the early hours of Monday morning, eventually ending shortly before 2am without the parties reaching agreement.
Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SPD) are working against the clock to hammer out a coalition agreement before a self-imposed deadline of Sunday night.
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But migration is the issue that refuses to go away for Mrs Merkel, even after she gave up her “open-door” refugee policy and agreed to a limit on the number of asylum-seekers allowed into Germany.
“We had very intense discussions,” Peter Altmaier, the acting finance minister and head of Mrs Merkel’s chancellery said after the talks.
Ironically it is Mrs Merkel who is in the unfamiliar position of trying to prevent more migrants entering Germany.
This time is the centre-left SPD which is pushing for a more open migration policy as the price for its support for a coalition government.
The dispute centres on whether asylum-seekers already inside the country can bring their relatives to join them. Mrs Merkel’s party wants to limit family reunification to those given full refugee status, while the SPD wants to extend it to asylum-seekers who are only granted a temporary stay in Germany.
The CDU is backed by its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), which is also taking part in the talks.
There were reports on Monday the parties were close to a compromise which would see family reunification for those allowed a temporary stay limited to 1,000 a month, and exemptions in cases of hardship.
But the mood of the parties appeared tense, with the SPD accusing the other parties of leaking details of the talks.
“Coalition negotiations are coalition negotiations, with no more exploratory discussions. We won’t put up with talk outside the negotiations,” an unnamed party source told Bild newspaper.
The parties are also divided over the issue of healthcare. The SPD wants to end private health insurance, and is pushing for reforms to prevent access to more expensive treatment — a policy vehemently opposed by Mrs Merkel’s party.
Meanwhile the SPD announced on Monday it will impose a deadline of next Tuesday for new members to join the party if they wish to take part in a vote on whether it should join a coalition under Mrs Merkel.
The final coalition deal has to be approved by a vote of the full membership, and the party’s youth wing, the Jusos, are leading a Momementum-style movement to sign up new members to vote No.
A date for the final vote will not be set until the parties have agreed a coalition deal.