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Coalition partners: Merkel weak on refugees

Center-left coalition partners the Social Democrats (SPD) have slammed Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU for infighting over her refugee policy. The conservatives have said the SPD is blocking new legislation.

Coalition partners the Social Democrats (SPD) issued a challenge to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday to demonstrate stronger leadership. Criticizing the conflict within Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) over refugee policy, the SPD warned that she was creating an atmosphere of "no confidence" in the government.

"Angela Merkel cannot allow the government's capacity to suffer because of the infighting in the CDU," SPD Secretary General Katarina Barley told the "Welt am Sonntag" newspaper. "Continuous new and impractical suggestions from the CDU and [Bavarian sister party] the CSU create no confidence," she added.

"We need clarity and a rapid implementation of the already agreed upon decisions," Barley said.

Merkel under pressure

Chancellor Merkel has been under fire from all sides, even within her own party, for her open-door refugee policy that some say led to the violence seen in the city of Cologne on New Year's Eve. Large crowds of men are alleged to have molested hundreds of women, and revelations continue to emerge of similar incidents all across the country.

Merkel has backtracked somewhat, such as by trying to strengthen border controls, particularly at the country's frontier with Austria, but has continued to receive flak for her inaction, at times from within her own cabinet.

Responding to Barley's criticism, the "Welt am Sonntag" reported that CDU Secretary General Peter Tauber said he would "recommend the SPD stop huffing and puffing and then shirking their duty when it comes to making promises."

Tauber slammed the SPD for their "blockade of the asylum legislation" and suggested they "finally join our initiative to have Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco declared safe countries of origin."

Considering many of the suspects from the Cologne assaults were of North African origin, the push to curtail refugees from these countries has taken on renewed steam.

es/jlw (Reuters, dpa)

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