Angela Merkel.jpg

Chancellor Angela Merkel attempted on Wednesday to quell a rebellion in her ruling coalition about her handling of the nation's refugee crisis and roundly criticized Vienna's move to limit its number of asylum seekers entering Austria.

In a brief statement ahead of meeting her conservative Christian Democrats' (CDU) Bavarian-based Christian Social Union (CSU) allies, Merkel said that she and her critics both agreed that steps were needed to ensure "a marked and sustainable" drop in refugees entering Germany.

The CSU and its leader, Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer, have spearheaded opposition to Merkel's stance on asylum, demanding that she abandon her opposition to limiting the numbers of refugees entering Germany and restrict the numbers along the lines of Austria.

Underlining the rift that has emerged in her coalition about the refugee crisis, Merkel's visit to the CSU party conference in the Bavarian Alps is the second time in two weeks that the chancellor has confronted her CSU critics.

But, in talks with CSU leaders, Merkel criticized Austria's decision to limit refugee numbers to 37,500 this year - a sharp drop from recent admissions levels - saying it would complicate negotiations with Turkey, according to party officials.

In her comments ahead of the talks, Merkel reaffirmed her push to find an international solution to reducing refugee flows into Europe.

She said that talks with Turkey on Friday, next week's international donor conference on the Middle East, and February's European Union leaders summit should offer opportunities to map out a solution.

"Then can we make an interim assessment and see where we stand," Merkel said.

But time is running out for Merkel to resolve the refugee crisis.

She faces a major test of stance on asylum when voters in three states - Baden Wuerttemberg in the south, Rheinland Pfatz in the western part of the nation and Saxony Anhalt in the east - go the polls in March.

Leading CSU members have also stepped up their criticism of Merkel following allegations of mass assaults against women by foreigners in Cologne on New Year's Eve, which have added to tensions in Germany about accepting large numbers of refugees.

Standing along aside Merkel on Wednesday, CSU state parliamentary chairman Thomas Kreuzer told the chancellor national measures to head off the flow of refugees "cannot be ruled out."

With Bavaria having emerged as the frontline state for refugees entering Germany, the CSU has called on Merkel to restrict the numbers of asylum seekers arriving this year to 200,000. The number of refugees entering Germany last year topped 1 million.

Underlining the tensions in Merkel's coalition about her refugee stance, 44 members of the CDU-CSU's combined 310-strong parliamentary bloc presented the chancellor with a letter on Tuesday warning her that the nation's resources had been stretched to the limit by the influx of refugees.

CDU-CSU members have been unnerved by a string of opinion polls showing a slide in support for the Merkel-led bloc and a jump in the numbers of voters backing Germany's new right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD).

A survey released by pollster Forsa showed support for the CDU-CSU falling during the week by 1 percentage point to 37 per cent - its lowest level since November. At the same time, the AfD has gained 1 percentage point to hit 10 per cent.

If repeated at Germany's next general election set down for September 2017, the rise in support for the AfD would propel it into the national parliament, the Bundestag.

Polls are also pointing to the AfD securing seats in regional legislatures at the three state elections set down for March.

Related stories

Latest news

Mosque attended by Berlin attacker Amri closed, police confirm

The mosque in Berlin attended by Berlin truck attacker Anis Amri has been closed. The mosque is permanently closed, read a note in German and Turkish on the door of the prayer rooms which was seen on Tuesday.

German army to expand to almost 200,000 soldiers

Germany's Bundeswehr, plans to expand its number of professional soldier to 198,000 by 2024 because of increasing duties, the German Defence Ministry announced on Tuesday.

Fired Audi engineer says he was 'sacrificed' for emissions scandal

A fired Audi engineer was "sacrificed" amid the ongoing VW group diesel emissions scandal, his lawyer claimed in court on Tuesday as he contested his client's dismissal.

French police arrest three over suspected terror plans, source says

French authorities have arrested three men in relation to suspected plans to carry out attacks in the country or travel to Syria, a source close to the investigation told dpa on Tuesday.

UN: Trial against Gaddafi regime was unfair, flawed

Former members of the Gaddafi regime did not get a fair trial in Libya because the proceedings were so seriously compromised, the United Nations criticized in a report on Monday.

Croatia remains Bosnia's biggest trade partner in 2016

Croatia is still the most important foreign trade partner to Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to figures released by the BiH Chamber of Foreign Trade which show that in 2016 the two countries' trade had gone up.

Red Cross: Bodies of 74 migrants wash ashore in Libya

The bodies of 74 migrants washed ashore in Libya, in the north-western city of Zawiya, a spokesman of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said Tuesday.

Ancelotti makes charity donation after middle finger gesture

Bayern Munich coach Carlo Ancelotti has agreed to donate 5,000 euros (5,200 dollars) to a charity run by the German football federation DFB following his middle finger gesture towards Hertha Berlin fans.

Azerbaijan's long-time leader Aliyev appoints wife as vice president

The long-time president of the oil-rich, Caspian Sea nation of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, appointed his wife, Mehriban Aliyeva, as vice president on Tuesday.

HSBC reports 62-per-cent fall in annual profit, blames one-off costs

Banking giant HSBC on Tuesday reported a 62-per-cent fall in its annual profit last year, blaming losses incurred from the sale of HSBC Bank Brazil and other one-off costs.

Le Pen quits meeting with Lebanon's Sunni cleric over headscarf row

France's far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen walked away from a meeting on Tuesday with Lebanon's senior Muslim Sunni cleric after she refused to wear a headscarf.

Podravka revenues up 15 pct, profit up 54 pct

The Podravka Group that operates in two main business segments: food and pharmaceuticals, generated a net profit in 2016 of HRK 182.4 million, which is 54.7% more than in 2015 without taking into account the one-off effect of consolidating the Zito company or deferred tax returns of Belupo in 2015, according to the company'y unaudited financial statements released on Tuesday.

Chinese prefecture requires all cars to install tracking devices

A prefecture in China’s troubled north-western province of Xinjiang is requiring all vehicles to install satellite tracking devices, a move that comes just weeks after authorities warned against cars being used for terrorist attacks.

Rohingya activist urges companies to stop investing in Myanmar

Foreign companies need to stop investing in Myanmar in order to stop the country's discrimination against its Muslim minority Rohingya, a prominent Myanmar activist said Tuesday.

ASEAN concerned about militarization in disputed South China Sea

South-East Asian countries are concerned about growing militarization in the disputed South China Sea and stressed the need for dialogue to ease tensions, the Philippines’ foreign minister said Tuesday.