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Germany

Chances Rise for Compromise on Immigration Reform

The political wrangling over a draft bill on immigration could soon be resolved. Germany’s interior minister Otto Schily is now cautiously optimistic that the latest draft of his bill will win approval.

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Re-thinking immigration: Otto Schily

Just a week before the immigration bill is due to be discussed in parliament, the German government's chances of pushing through Schily’s controversial immigration reforms have suddenly improved.

The governing Social Democrats lack a majority in the upper house of parliament and therefore need to win over some of the federal states where the conservative Christian Democrats rule in order to get the bill through the upper house, the Bundesrat.

It seems like they have been able to achieve that. A moderate conservative leader said he was open to talks on the plan. Peter Mueller, CDU premier of the state Saarland acknowledges Germany's long-term need for immigrants.

"It would be better to solve the problem factually," Mueller told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper in an interview.

Two things remain unclear, however. Firstly, whether the SPD’s junior coalition partner, the Greens, are going to go along with a compromise bill drawn up by Schily.

Schily had won the Greens' support for the bill by making two concessions: that non-state and gender-based forms of persecution are reasons to provide a person with a limited residence permit. And that the age limit for children wanting to join their parents in Germany is to be cut from 16 to 14, and not to 12, as Mr. Schily had originally proposed.

Secondly, it remains to be seen whether the Christian Democrat opposition will agree to any compromise with the SPD in the run-up to the elections, due to be held in September next year.

Chancellor Schröder is keen to pass legislation quickly that would allow in a controlled stream of immigrants to offset Germany's falling population and keep the sensitive issue out of the spotlight during the election campaign.

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