Merkel refuses to bow to ally-turned-critic's call to cap migration

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated her opposition to limiting the number of migrants and refugees allowed to enter the country, as she sought to settle tensions within her bloc at a key coalition partners' party conference on Wednesday.

The chancellor has repeatedly butted heads with the Christian Social Union's leader, Horst Seehofer, over his proposal to allow a maximum of 200,000 migrants to enter Germany this year. That's less than one-fifth the number that arrived last year.

"There are many varying positions. This probably will not change in today's discussion," Merkel said at the annual CSU conference in the southern Bavarian resort of Wildbad Kreuth.

While stressing that she too wants to see a "tangible reduction" in the number of arrivals, the chancellor stopped short of supporting the CSU's proposed cap.

CSU members also called for a policy of sending back refugees who arrive at the border without valid papers. But according to people who participated in the closed-door session, Merkel requested more time, saying there had not yet been enough attempts to limit the influx of refugees by other means.

Seehofer and other members of his arch-conservative party have insisted a maximum of 200,000 is necessary to alleviate the burden on the public purse and ensure successful integration. An average of 3,000 refugees arrive in Germany every day, Seehofer said prior to the meeting.

The Bavarian state leader called his meeting with Merkel a "collegial conversation," adding that his party would continue pursuing its goal to limit the number of refugees allowed in.

"It could not be expected that we suddenly reach full consensus now in one or two hours here in Kreuth," Seehofer said.

Authorities and infrastructure in the state of Bavaria, where the CSU is based, have been particularly hard-hit by the mass migration influx, with the vast majority of the 1.1 million refugees recorded in 2015 entering Germany through the state's southern border.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is also set to attend the conference on Wednesday evening. His Conservatives and the CSU have a common interest in reforming the relationship between the European Union and its member states.

On the prospect of a so-called Brexit, Merkel said she expected decisions to be made in Germany's interest that would offer Britain "a sensible package" in order to keep it in the union. She did not give details of exact measures.

Cameron has promised to renegotiate the terms of Britain's EU membership before holding an in-out referendum by the end of 2017.

Last update: Thu, 07/01/2016 - 01:01

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