Rank and file defies party leadership despite supporting Merkel’s fourth run for chancellorship
Angela Merkel suffered a shock defeat at the hands of her Christian Democrat party on Wednesday when its annual conference voted to limit many immigrants’ rights to dual citizenship, a privilege granted only two years ago.
The decision, which mainly concerns Germany’s large Turkish-origin community, highlights continuing deep unease in the CDU over the chancellor’s liberal immigration policies despite her efforts to move on from the migrant crisis in which more than 1m asylum seekers arrived in Germany in the year to March 2016.
The vote, passed in defiance of the party leadership, shows that the CDU rank and file remains in a truculent mood even though members on Tuesday overwhelmingly backed Ms Merkel’s bid to remain party leader, endorsing her plan to run for a fourth term as chancellor in next year’s parliamentary poll.
“That’s the party conference for you,” said Julia Klöckner, a CDU deputy chairman, speaking on the margins of the event in the industrial city of Essen.
The motion was proposed by the CDU youth wing, which has a tradition of trying to push the party to the right and has been particularly critical of Ms Merkel’s refugee policies. It was opposed by speakers including Thomas de Maizière, interior minister, and Peter Tauber, CDU general secretary, who are close to Ms Merkel. Although the vote passed by only a narrow margin of 319 to 300, with many of the 1,001 delegates absent, Young Union members cheered the result.
Before 2014, the CDU and the CSU, its Bavaria-based sister, opposed dual citizenship on the grounds that immigrant-origin people should not be allowed to divide their loyalties, and defended a system under which young people of foreign-origin had to choose between German and foreign citizenship between the ages of 18 and 24.
However two years ago the conservatives reluctantly agreed to a compromise with the Social Democrats, the junior coalition partners, who had long campaigned for dual rights. Under the new law, children of foreign parents born and raised in Germany can claim dual citizenship. But the refugee crisis has polarised Germany and pushed many conservatives to call for tougher rules for integrating migrants.
After the vote, Ms Merkel rejected the result saying it would have no effect on government decisions. The agreement with the SPD would remain in place.
Mr de Maizière said it would not alter the legal position because the CDU/CSU bloc lacked an absolute majority in the Bundestag and would not find any partners for a rule change.
But the Social Democrats warned that the vote would antagonise immigrant communities, not least the Turkish-origin population of around 3m, half of whom are Turkish citizens. “This is a slap in the face for the integration of young people who have already lived here a long time,” said Thomas Oppermann, the SPD parliamentary chief. “The chancellor asks her party for help and instead gets a spoke between her wheels.”
Cem Özdemir, leader of the opposition Green party and Germany’s most senior Turkish-origin politician, said the decision could “marginalise” German-Turks and “surrender” them to the “authoritarian master”, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president.
Mr Özdemir’s concerns are based on the fact the 1.5m Turkish citizens living in Germany already show considerable sympathy for Mr Erdogan: his AKP party won more than 60 per cent of the vote in Germany in last year’s Turkish parliamentary elections. Mr Erdogan’s crackdown after this summer’s failed putsch has further boosted his support base in Germany, even as it has created splits in the community prompting criticism from anti-Erdogan Turks in Germany.
Turkish community leaders warned that a return to the old citizenship law would be discriminatory, as it would only apply, as before, to the children of immigrants from outside the EU. Under EU law, EU citizens and their offspring have long enjoyed easy access to dual citizenship.
By: Stefan Wagstyl, 7 December 2016, Financial Times, https://www.ft.com/stream/authorsId/Q0ItMDAwMDg4Mw==-QXV0aG9ycw==