Merkel names refugee expert as foreign policy adviser

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 11, 2017 9:12 AM

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel appointed Jan Hecker, her refugee policy coordinator, as her new foreign policy adviser, as she braced for tricky talks on a new coalition government next week, where immigration is likely to be a key issue, a government spokeswoman said.

Merkel, humbled in last month's national election by a surge of the anti-immigrant far right, is seeking to put together a three-way coalition of her conservatives, the pro-business Free Democrats and the environmentalist Greens - a combination previously untested at the federal level.

Members of her conservative bloc resolved their own differences and agreed to limiting migration on Monday, paving the way for talks to begin with the other parties.

Hecker, a former federal judge, took over the newly created position of refugee coordinator in October 2015 after Merkel's decision to allow in over a million migrants. He led Germany's migration treaties with African states and accompanied Merkel on a number of foreign trips focused on migration.

The decision reflects "growing awareness that refugee and asylum policies are inextricably linked to security issues," said Judy Dempsey, a senior fellow at Carnegie Europe.

"He had the overview of Libya, of the traffickers, of the security of the borders, of the agreement with Turkey," she said.

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Hecker replaces Christoph Heusgen, who had advised Merkel for all 12 years of her role as chancellor, before becoming Germany's U.N. ambassador in New York in late July.

With Hecker's appointment, Merkel breaks for the second time with a longstanding tradition of tapping diplomats to fill foreign and political jobs in the chancellery.

(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa)