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CDU in showdown over UN migration pact

November 19, 2018

Leading Christian Democrats are warning their colleagues not to call Germany's participation in the UN's Global Compact for Migration into question. Jens Spahn and other CDU members have gone rogue on asylum policy.

Refugees and migrants try to warm themselves through fires in the makeshift camp in Idomeni
Image: picture alliance/NurPhoto/N. Economou

Members of Angela Merkel's ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) are hitting back at Health Minister Jens Spahn's suggestion that Germany should not sign on to the United Nations' Global Compact for Migration after all.

Spahn's proposal did not go down well with Manfred Weber, a German member of European Parliament who leads the center-right European People's Party. Instead, Weber told DW the matter required a European response.

"It would be a good signal for the future if we could give a proper answer as Europeans together, united," Weber told DW. "I think it’s better to compromise, to signal to the outside world especially to our African friends that we are ready to compromise than to be egoistic."

'Lack of leadership'

Norbert Röttgen, who heads the Bundestag's foreign affairs committee, said the agreement, which is not legally binding, would be an important step by the international community in controlling migration and was therefore in Germany's best interest.

"To put off signing the migration pact would be a lack of leadership that Germany cannot permit," Röttgen told daily Bild for an article published on Monday.

Spahn, who hopes to take the reins of the CDU when Merkel relinquishes them at the end of the year, has called for further debate on the pact when the party convenes to choose its next boss in December. Other members of the CDU have also criticized Germany's participation in the pact, which was set for ratification in December and in part "intends to reduce the risks and vulnerabilities migrants face at different stages of migration," according to the UN.

The pact calls for nations to take voluntary measures to help improve the conditions in migrants' countries of origin that are frequently cited as the primary motivators of emigration, as well as to help destination countries better assimilate migrants and provide them with sustainable conditions. Its 23 objectives, in the UN's words, strive "to create conducive conditions that enable all migrants to enrich our societies through their human, economic and social capacities, and thus facilitate their contributions to sustainable development at the local, national, regional and global levels."

Deutschlandtrend: Leader CDU

'The populist hysteria'

Perhaps inspiring the rogue members of Merkel's coalition of the CDU, Social Democrats and Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), three of Germany's neighbors — Poland, the Czech Republic and Austria — and nearby Hungary, have already pulled out of the pact. But now the conflict is coming from within her party, representing yet another dispute among the nominally allied factions that have sought to steer Germany through a series of crises over the past five years.

"Striving for the right way in the party is always smart," Thomas Strobl, the CDU's second-in-command, told Bild. "With that in mind, it was clearly a mistake that the migration pact was not openly and positively advocated for early on."

Strobl said that "we should not allow ourselves to be driven mad by the populist hysteria of the right." He referenced the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has played on xenophobia for political gain, in adding that he was "absolutely opposed to the idea that, in fear of the misleading AfD campaign, we would execute even a partial withdrawal" from the agreement.

Those words may not be enough to convince the further-right elements of the uneasy alliance that currently governs Germany. As the CSU Bundestag deputy Peter Ramsauer, who opposes the pact, told daily Die Welt for an article published in Monday's edition, "throughout the entire document, there's a stance that sees migration as something normal and even desirable."

mkg/aw (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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