The two largest German parties have overcome one of the main obstacles to the formation of a Grand coalition government. The conservative bloc of Chancellor Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz’s Social Democratic Party have agreed to allow 12,000 relatives of refugees to come to Germany each year.
Martin Schulz, who aspires to convince his party’s base that the agreement constitutes a victory for the Socialists, called it a « 1,000 + agreement »; referring to the unspecified number of people beyond the 1,000 per month who would be allowed to enter in cases of humanitarian emergencies.
The arrival of one and a half million refugees in the last two years has turned asylum into a hot-button political issue in Germany and has catapulted the far-right into Parliament.
While Merkel’s conservative bloc advocates for maximum reductions in the number of relatives allowed to join family members who have settled as refugees in Germany, the Social Democrats consider the reunification of families crucial to the integration of those already here.
Germany has been in a political crisis for more than four months due to the inability of the parties to agree to form a government. Merkel won the September elections, but failed to achieve the majority needed to govern alone.
Since then, she has been looking for a minority partner to govern with for a fourth term in office.
Since last Friday, the Merkel bloc (CDU / CSU) and the Social Democrats of Martin Schulz (SPD) have been negotiating a repeat of the outgoing grand coalition between the two parties. Next Sunday is the deadline to reach an agreement, which will lay the foundations to govern the country in the next four years.
The family reunification of the refugees had until now become the main obstacle to the pact. Health care and the reduction of temporary contracts are the other two major issues in which differences persist.