From file: Migrants who arrived via Belarus in Germany are being housed in the state of Brandenburg | Photo: Patrick Pleul/dpa/picture-alliance
From file: Migrants who arrived via Belarus in Germany are being housed in the state of Brandenburg | Photo: Patrick Pleul/dpa/picture-alliance

Germany's center-right opposition criticized a plan by the Social Democrats to build a coalition of willing EU states to take in asylum applicants, saying it would divide the European Union on important migration issues.

Germany's conservative opposition on Monday condemned plans for an EU "coalition of the willing" on asylum applicants.

Members of the center-right bloc of the Christian Democrats and Christian Social Union (CSU) said the idea of a few member states acting alone was unworkable, and was a threat to the integrity of the EU.

What exactly would the plan be?

Countries such as Hungary and Poland categorically reject a system to distribute refugees among all EU member states.

To end a stalemate that has lasted in EU asylum policy for years, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser seeks to join with other countries to forge a common EU asylum system for member states that are willing.

After a meeting with EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson in Berlin on Friday, Faeser said progress on such a coalition looked possible.

She said and her first talks with France and Italy on the issues had been promising. A member of the center-left Social Democrats, Faeser said the situation at the border with Belarus, for example, showed that the European Union needed "an efficient and crisis-proof asylum system."

Conservatives oppose plan 

Alexander Dobrindt, the CSU's deputy leader in the Bundestag, said he opposed the plan, as it would show "a lack of respect for the attitude of our neighboring countries."

"Germany's responsibility is to bring Europe together on the big issues instead of dividing it," he said.

Dobrindt told the DPA news agency it posed a risk to a Europe without internal border checks.

"Anyone who unilaterally sets new incentives for more migration will jeopardize unity in Europe and the open borders in the EU."

He said Faeser had failed to understand that the European Union means "rallying everyone behind one idea instead of pushing one's own ideology against others."

Christoph de Vries, a CDU deputy and member of the Bundestag's Home Affairs Committee, told the mass-circulation Bild newspaper on Monday that Germany had "borne the biggest humanitarian burden in Europe for many years."

"The top priority for a German interior minister now must be to send clear stop signals and not hand out new invitations," he said.

The CDU was the senior coalition party when, as chancellor in 2015, Angela Merkel kept Germany borders open to more than a million asylum-seekers. Many came from Syria, but also from other parts of the Middle East and Africa.

The CSU's Markus Ferber said migration "cannot be solved by a few states acting alone."

Faeser should "spend more energy on working together in Europe than on splitting Europe," he told Bild.

The only way out?

There was support for the plan from the Greens, who are part of the ruling coalition.

"A coalition of the willing is the only way out," Anton Hofreiter, the chair of the European Affairs Committee in the Bundestag, told the AFP news agency.

He said he did not see "at the moment that we can come to a common conclusion on this issue with member states like Hungary or Poland." Hofreiter also said "quite a number of cities and municipalities" were ready to take in refugees.

rc/wmr (dpa, AFP)

First published: January 17, 2022

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