Thursday Summit

Merkel, States to Square Off on Refugees

Merkel with state governors dpa
After the E.U. summit, it's time for the battle at home over housing the refugees.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany has shown tremendous readiness to help in the wake of hundreds of thousands of refugees pouring in – but it now has to settle the question of how to integrate them and pay for them.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Germany expects up to 1.3 million refugees this year, according to some estimates.
    • A special summit between the federal government and 16 state governments on the refugee crisis is planned for Thursday.
    • Paying for the refugees and speeding up their asylum applications are the two major talking points.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

As Chancellor Angela Merkel this week leaves one refugee summit for the next, she is facing a tough decision in Berlin tomorrow.

When Ms. Merkel boldly declared last month “we can do it,” absorbing perhaps 1 million refugees this year, she neglected to say how.

And now Germany’s municipalities and states – saddled with the lion’s share of costs for refugee accommodation – want an answer.

“What we need is a long-term concept instead of planning from summit to summit,” Matthias Miersch, a Social Democrat member of the Bundestag, told Handelsblatt Global Edition.

At a meeting tomorrow with state premiers, Ms. Merkel may be forced into making a multi-billion-euro concession to keep the political peace at a volatile moment when Germany’s commitment, and Ms. Merkel’s promise, are under political attack.

It’s still unclear whether she’s willing to free up billions of euros — a new estimate puts the cost for new arrivals this year at €10 billion ($11.2 billion) — which could jeopardize the country’s coveted balanced budget.

Her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, has already taken flack for announcing plans to shave €2.5 billion from other federally funded programs to cover the exploding refugee costs.

But another round of costly, unplanned spending could give her political opponents ammunition. While Ms. Merkel remains Germany’s most popular politician after a decade in power, she is facing unprecedented heat from conservatives in her own ruling coalition over her promise of generosity and hospitality to thousands of homeless people from Iraq, Syria and other war zones in the world.

State political leaders said they are expecting concrete actions — namely money from Berlin and a reform of Germany’s overly bureaucratic asylum application process — rather than vague promises.

Want to keep reading?

Subscribe now or log in to read our coverage of Europe’s leading economy.