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Coalition Row: Merkel Tries to Defuse 'Poverty Immigration' Debate

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is promising to address the issue of immigration from Bulgaria and Romania at a meeting next week. Zoom
DPA

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is promising to address the issue of immigration from Bulgaria and Romania at a meeting next week.

The debate over "poverty migration" to Germany has escalated inside Chancellor Merkel's governing coalition this week, prompting her to step in and seek to calm fears as Bulgarians and Romanians gain access to the European labor market.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday indirectly entered into a debate within her governing coalition about controversial calls by conservatives to restrict welfare payments to immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania.

The calls -- which included the slogan "Those who commit fraud are out" and a suggested three-month ban on welfare payments for immigrants -- came in response to the Jan. 1 opening of European labor markets to residents of the two countries, which are among the European Union's poorest members.

It's a development that has sparked fears of an influx of "poverty migration" across Europe, one that has sparked debates in France, Britain, Germany and elswhere in the EU. And Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU), the sister party to Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has taken the lead in warning against allowing these potential immigrants to benefit from the German social system, prompting criticism from their center-left coalition partners the Social Democrats (SPD), plus accusations of right-wing populism from the opposition.

In reaction, Merkel, who was also previously criticized for her silence on the matter, telephoned her new vice chancellor and SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel to arrange the creation of a special committee for reviewing the issue during a cabinet meeting next Wednesday.

Freedom of Movement 'Essential' to Europe

But members of Merkel's CDU have also been stirring the populist debate, with European Parliamentarian Elmar Brok suggesting on Friday that immigrants be forced to have their fingerprints taken to prevent welfare fraud. "Immigrants who come to Germany only for unemployment welfare payments, child benefits and health insurance must be sent home quickly to their homelands," he told the tabloid daily Bild.

But not all conservatives necessarily agree. Armin Laschet, a fellow CDU member and party leader for the populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, told public broadcaster WDR 5 that such ideas "really don't fit in an open Europe."

Freedom of movement is an "essential part of European integration," foreign minister and SPD member Frank-Walter Steinmeier told daily Süddeutsche Zeitung on Thursday. To question this "damages Europe and damages Germany," he added.

The row over "poverty migration" within the new grand coalition, which began governing shortly before Christmas, is being described as the right-left alliance's first major disagreement by the German media.

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1. optional
peskyvera 01/03/2014
First of all, STOP with the labeling - it only inflames the discussion even more. Secondly, the EU should have thought of this BEFORE admitting Rumania and Bulgaria to the union. You can't have the cake and eat it too.
2. Poverty migration equal to poverty distribution
pacchiardo 01/04/2014
The immigration is setting a new equilibrium in the EU countries, tath is by importing new labor force at a lower cost. The disadvantage is for the native EU labor citizens which are seeing reduction in their salary or beeing obliged to accept a lowe pay job or beeing laid off. The advantage is for the enterprise which have the opportunity to increase their gains. This model is negatively impacting the future pensions payments as the pensions fund are getting less money now. This game cannot go for ever and there will be severe and hard reaction as soon as everybody will realize this rotten new social model.
3. Reality meets lip service lol
lol1232 01/07/2014
Reality rears it's ugly head of ideology and fax globalism...go ahead and say...Globalism = Elitism. end of conversation.
4. optional
vijay banga 01/07/2014
It is necessary to invite labor to grow the Industry and if manpower is required it has to be added but if not available locally and is there abundant in neighborhood why not invite them over, now compensation aside all workers are permitted social benefits and it is applicable to one and all on the same pattern, differentiation cannot be there or it will cause dissension. One can not hope to squeeze benefits or it will amount to malpractices and not give desired results.All labor if reworded correctly will bring more prosperity to employers and the employed.
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