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Merkel saved by refugee motion

Kate Brady, Karlsruhe
December 14, 2015

After weeks of growing tensions over the refugee crisis within Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Chancellor Angela Merkel now seems to have reunited her party. DW's Kate Brady reports.

Angela Merkel at CDU party conference in Karlsruhe
Image: Getty Images/AFP/T. Kienzle

If one thing was clear from the standing ovation and minutes-long applause which greeted the German chancellor, it was that the center-right party is once again united and behind its party leader, for now at least.

A beaming Merkel appeared on Monday to have tempered down the ructions in the CDU camp and saved herself from a renewed wave of criticism over her handling of the refugee crisis - largely due to a resolution hammered out by the CDU executive on the eve of the party conference.

The motion, which is due to be submitted to the party's delegates during the CDU's two-day party congress, states that the party is determined to reduce the influx of refugees through "effective measures," but avoids any mention of the "upper limit" demanded by some of the chancellor's critics.

'Humanitarian responsibility'

"We want to tangibly reduce the number of refugees arriving," Merkel told around 1,000 CDU delegates in Karlsruhe on Monday.

"With an approach focused on the German, European and global level, we will succeed in regulating and limiting migration."

Defending her famous "we can manage this" attitude towards the unprecedented influx of asylum seekers, Merkel said she believed it was "part of our country’s identity to achieve great things."

As Europe's economic powerhouse, Germany still has a "moral and political" duty to continue providing help and support to the world’s most desperate and vulnerable people, the CDU leader said.

"We will live up to our humanitarian responsibility," she added.

Double standing ovation

A second round of rapturous applause for the chancellor at the close of her much-anticipated speech confirmed that the mood on the floor was widely positive toward the CDU leader.

In light of the motion, the leader of the CDU Youth Union (JU), Paul Ziemiak, withdrew the JU’s proposal for an upper limit on asylum seekers in Germany, even though the resolution does not go as far as the young CDUers would have hoped.

Bianca Seeger CDU
CDU Women's Union board memeber and NRW delegate Bianca Seeger praised Merkel's speechImage: DW/K. Brady

Ziemiak told DW that the resolution was not hiding behind any wordplay, and that the actual contents indeed proposed not an upper limit on refugees, but a "reduction."

"We’re not just saying a reduction: we’re also saying that if this influx were to continue, even in a country like Germany, then the state and society would be overwhelmed," Ziemiak said.

'Merkel listens to the people'

Bianca Seeger, a delegate for the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia and board member of the CDU’s Women’s Union, said she was "hugely impressed" by Merkel’s speech and that the chancellor had addressed "all the issues that affect Germany at the moment and the concerns of the German people."

"Merkel listens to the people, listens to their concerns and strives to find a solution," Seeger told DW.

"As a result we have a wonderful motion which addresses the criticism and concerns over the refugee crisis, and I believe that we will therefore find a humane solution."

Seeger added, however, that she believed individual states in Germany must be put under pressure to fully implement the measures.

No real groundwork

Echoing the positive sentiments of many of his fellow delegates, Jörg Förster praised Merkel for "making a clear sign that the CDU is united."

Jörg Förster CDU
Saxony representative Jörg Förster had his reservations about the CDU's refugee motionImage: DW/K. Brady

The representative for the eastern German state of Saxony raised concerns over the proposed refugee motion, however.

"I believe, to a certain extent, that there’s a 'limit' in the resolution, but I’d hoped for a clearer message. The motion is actually more of a compromise," Förster told DW.

Fellow Saxony delegate and co-chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary faction, Arnold Vaatz, shared similar concerns.

"The resolution provides no real groundwork for reducing the influx of refugees," Vaatz said.

"The question is whether one can substantially share the burden across Europe and then reduce the overall number of refugees."

Relief for Merkel

With the influx of refugees in Germany now tipping one million, a huge challenge still lies ahead, especially as German society works to integrate its new members.

But for now, Merkel can breathe easy in the knowledge that her efforts on Monday have re-established the coherence of her party.

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