January 31, 2018
A compromise of words
One of the reasons why Martin Schulz' popularity in Germany is hitting new lows is his tendency to oversell. Yesterday he made a claim that the SPD has prevailed with its position on refugees, when in reality the opposite is the case. The two parties have now agreed that the families of refugees with subsidiary status - those from war zones, for example, who are not individually persecuted - will not be able to join their relatives in Germany until the summer. From then onwards, there shall be a contingent of a maximum of 1000 per month, but only on humanitarian grounds. The SPD wanted a new hardship clause that would allow the numbers to go higher, while the CDU/CSU interpret the hardship clause as applying to the monthly contingent of 1000.
The issue of families of asylum seekers with subsidiary status is important, because the Bundestag has to legislate right away as existing legislation expires this month. Even before the grand coalition is formally agreed, CDU/CSU and SPD will tomorrow support a vote in the Bundestag to extend the existing ban on family reunification for asylum seekers with subsidiary status, after which the new quota rule will take over.
But the coalition agreement foresees that there is no legal claim for the 1000 monthly family members. It is considered a humanitarian gesture only. The head of the CDU/CSU Bundestag group, Volker Kauder, said that this compromise fully reflected the CDU/CSU position on this issue. As FAZ reports, on this point the SPD has only achieved some face-saving language, but nothing of substance. At the last party congress Schulz said the SPD would renegotiate this part of the preliminary coalition agreement to introduce a hardship rule. He said yesterday that this goal had been achieved. The government parties, however, said that the agreement would still provide for a hard limit of 1000 family members per month.
We are only too well aware that politics is full of hype, but Schulz has a tendency to underestimate the intelligence of his audience, and of his party members in particular. What happened yesterday was not a victory for the SPD. Germany is tightening its immigration policies.