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No decision on transit zones

November 1, 2015

Crisis talks on refugee inflows between Chancellor Angela Merkel and two top coalition partners have ended. The decision on the controversial transit zones has been postponed.

Berlin Bundeskanzleramt Seehofer Gabriel Merkel Koalition
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/W. Kumm

Sunday's Berlin talks culminated a week in which German voters heard heated rhetoric from the three parties - the CDU, the CSU and the SPD - that comprise Merkel's two-year-old coalition.

After two hours, the German Press Office said no consensus had been reached, despite what it termed a "multitude of textually substantive commonalities." The leaders would hold further talks next Thursday, it said.

Sunday's consultations coincided with a "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung" report that Merkel at a recent EU summit had acknowledged that Germany's intake of migrants traveling through the Balkans would reach 1 million.

Her government's previous official estimate was 800,000.

'Transit camps' strictly rejected

One of SPD chief Sigmar Gabriel's deputies, Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel, told the "Welt am Sonntag" newspaper ahead of Sunday's talks that the Social Democrats (SPD) "strictly rejected" transit camps along Germany's border with Austria as demanded by Horst Seehofer, the head of Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU), part of Merkel's Union bloc. These would amount to "internment zones," said Schäfer-Gümbel.

On Saturday, when each party held internal consultations, Gabriel said that "many registration and arrival centers" were instead needed inside Germany to handle vetting of individual asylum applications.

Bavaria's CSU had declared Sunday as a deadline for Merkel to drop her open border policy and institute rapid yes-no asylum border checks, otherwise his party would resort to "emergency measures."

Border practices are the prerogative of Germany's federal government, not its 16 regional states, cautioned German constitution experts.

Conservative alliance at risk?

CSU sources had also hinted that a 1976 power divide between CSU conservatives inside Bavaria and Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) for the rest of Germany was at risk and warned that the allocation of new arrivals to municipalities was chaotic.

Deutschland Flüchtlinge in Passau
Image: Getty Images/AFP/C. Stache

Personnel and volunteers such as doctors, however, say that despite stress, they are doing what is necessary to treat and accommodate tens of thousands of migrants as winter approaches.

The general secretary of Merkel's party, Peter Tauber, told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung" that the CDU and CSU had been particularly successful in the past "when the population has the feeling that we are working jointly on problems."

'Half-baked' suggestions

The SPD's Schäfer-Gümbel told the "Welt am Sonntag": "We don't need large internment camps with the label transit zone; what we need are zones of quiet against the half-baked suggestions from Munich."

Several weeks ago, Germany's federal parliament amended asylum law aimed at accelerating procedures for granting asylum or expelling those rejected.

Pure antics

Opposition Greens co-leader Simone Peter accused Merkel's conservatives and the SPD of resorting to pure antics.

"Instead of repeatedly propagating symbolic politics, the coalition must agree on a coherent system for registration and processing of asylum applications," she said.

Acute personnel shortages and incompatible registration systems had led to unnecessary double work and extended waiting times, Peter said.

ipj/ng (epd, dpa, AFP)