Pressure on Merkel mounts after affront by Bavarian ally

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 23, 2015 10:59 AM

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel faced pressure from her own conservatives on Monday to change course on her refugee policy after an affront by the leader of her Bavarian allies drove up tensions in her ruling coalition.

Horst Seehofer, the leader of the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's conservatives, embarrassed the chancellor by openly criticizing her on Friday for failing to put a formal cap on the number of refugees entering Germany.

Seehofer's Christian Social Union (CSU) is the Bavarian sister party of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Together they form 'The Union' but on refugee policy they have been anything but united.

    Those tensions began spreading to the CDU on Monday, with senior officials warning that the government must change tack.

"Everyone in the Union knows that we can't hold out many more weeks if every day up to 10,000 refugees and migrants come into the country," Jens Spahn, a member of the CDU party executive, told the Passauer Neuen Presse newspaper.

Another senior official from the CDU said privately that if Merkel did not manage to reduce the number of refugee arrivals before her party's congress in early December, she could expect a lukewarm reception.

Roughly a million refugees are expected to arrive in Germany this year alone and local authorities are struggling to cope.

The influx shows no immediate sign of waning. A spokesman for Germany's federal police said almost 180,000 refugees had entered the country since the beginning of November.

Divisions between Merkel's conservatives and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) over benefits for refugees prompted coalition leaders to cancel a special cabinet meeting planned for Monday at which they had hoped to agree measures to speed up the processing of asylum seekers.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Richard Balmforth)