The leaders of Germany's two conservative parties, the CDU and the CSU, have pledged to stick together after a year of public discord. The two sister parties had repeatedly collided over Angela Merkel's migration policy.
Lawmakers and senior officials from Bavaria's conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) finished three days of meetings in the monastery town of Seeon pledging to stay united with the Christian Democrats (CDU) and new CDU leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
The move follows a year of discord between both parties over Chancellor Angela Merkel's open migration policy. The spat saw public clashes between Merkel, who stepped down as CDU leader in December, and CSU party leader and German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who repeatedly called for more restrictive immigration rules.
The row was a "real gaze into the abyss" for the long-standing CDU/CSU partnership, said Kramp-Karrenbauer, who was also in Seeon. "I hope the view had a healing effect."
Leading CSU official Alexander Dobrindt said his view on the spat was less dramatic. The alliance, he said, was never "facing ruin."
'Inhale the spirit of Seeon"
Despite their differences, ranking members of both parties signaled they were ready to turn a page in 2019. Dobrindt praised the "cooperative competition" between the sister parties and said he hoped that the CDU "would inhale the spirit of Seeon."
Kramp-Karrenbauer likened the relationship between the sister parties to the relationship between real-world siblings.
"You can argue with each other, but you stick together when other children from the neighborhood show up," she said, adding that differences would be settled "in the right place and in the right tone" in the future.
The CSU and the CDU are leading a joint campaign for the European parliamentary elections in May 2019, with the CSU's Manfred Weber set to lead the EU-wide conservative bloc as its candidate to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission.
Facing off against AfD
On Saturday, Weber outlined his vision of an ambitious EU that would nevertheless be close to people. "We shouldn't see Europe merely as a practical union," he said. "It is a union of destinies."
He also warned that the rise of populist parties across the EU, including Germany's far-right AfD party, threatened the bloc's stability. German voters, he said, should avoid voting for the AfD if they want a politically and economically secure future.
In addition to the EU-wide election, German conservatives are also facing a surging AfD ahead of state elections in Brandenburg, Thuringia and Saxony in 2019.
At the national level, the CSU and the CDU are in an uneasy coalition with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD). Both conservative parties said at the end of the Seeon meeting that they would re-examine their grand coalition agreement by fall of 2019.
dj/amp (dpa, Reuters, AFP)