By Ayhan Simsek
BERLIN (AA) - Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc CDU/CSU and Social Democratic Party (SPD) have cleared a major hurdle in German coalition negotiations by reaching an agreement on restricting family reunification for refugees.
Speaking to reporters after Tuesday’s meetings, CDU/CSU parliamentary group leader Volker Kauder said they managed to overcome their differences on the contentious issue of family reunification.
“Monthly, up to a maximum of 1,000 people can come to Germany for family reunification,” he said, adding that the new regulation would come into force on Aug. 1.
Merkel’s Bavarian ally the Christian Social Union (CSU) had long insisted on stricter measures to curb family reunification, while the Social Democrats had been critical of suggestions to introduce a cap.
EU’s largest economy welcomed 890,000 refugees in 2015, at the height of the refugee crisis, putting enormous pressure on Merkel’s coalition government.
Germany received 280,000 refugees in 2016, and 187,000 last year, most of them Syrians and Iraqis who fled war and military conflicts.
Family reunification has become a major political topic, after local media reported that around 390,000 refugees could apply for this right and bring their spouses and minor children to Germany.
The far-right, Islamophobic Alternative for Germany (AfD) said family reunification was an "incalculable risk” for the country, and called for severe restrictions.
Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc and the SPD are planning to conclude their coalition negotiations this weekend, more than four months after last September’s parliamentary elections.