It has been a fraught week for Germany’s ruling right-left coalition, with deep divisions between Chancellor Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats and the center-left Social Democrats emerging over how to handle the refugee crisis.
On Thursday, however, the parties finally made their peace and reached an agreement. The deal aims at speeding up the asylum applications process and repatriations to deal with the huge number of new arrivals.
Germany expects up to 1 million asylum applications this year and the interior minister announced on Thursday that 758,000 people had entered the country between January and October.
The coalition summit on Thursday between Ms. Merkel, Horst Seehofer, head of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union, and SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel ended with an agreement to create three to five “admission centers” that would process those asylum applications deemed to have little chance of success.
“We’ve ended this phase of the discussion and a huge amount of work now lies ahead of us,” the chancellor told reporters in Berlin after the meeting. “We’re proceeding in the spirit that we can do this and that we want to do this.”
The summit was the second in a week between the three party leaders. Sunday’s meeting had been acrimonious, with Mr. Gabriel walking out after two hours. The two conservative leaders then agreed to a proposal for so-called “transit zones,” which the SPD rejected.
The center-left party did not want to see anything that looked like detention camps in Germany.
The compromise on Thursday paved the way for asylum-processing centers, two of which would be set up in Bavaria. Asylum applications would be fast-tracked, taking only a week instead of months. Any appeals will take just two weeks.