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Berlin battles to agree onGerman immigration reform

4 May 2004

BERLIN – Two years of talks to try to hammer out an agreement on German immigration reform are in danger of collapse with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s Social Democrats battling to keep the reforms alive after the junior member of his coalition, the Greens, pulled out of the cross-party negotiations.

While the conservative Christian Democrat–led opposition said Tuesday that they were prepared to press on with the negotiations, the Greens decision to abandon the talks have led to an outbreak of tension within Schroeder’s ruling coalition.

Interior Minister Otto Schily, who is also a member of the Social Democrats, roundly criticised the Greens’ move as threatening the Schroeder coalition.

The tensions which have emerged over the new immigration law have raised the possibility of the negotiations to push through the law being handed over to party leaders.

The latest stumbling block in the marathon negotiations on the immigrations reforms has been the opposition’s insistence that the security provisions for detaining foreign extremists and terrorists should be toughened up.

While Schily and the Social Democrats have agreed to the request, the Greens have rejected it claiming that the opposition was trying to make political capital out of the talks and a result of the dispute walked out of the talks.

The cross-party talks on the new immigration law follow the government’s failure to push the reforms through the opposition-controlled upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat.

Widely supported by German business, the law represent another step in the opening up the nation’s labour market to foreign workers with the law aimed at people from non-European Union nations.

The proposed immigration reforms, which would bring German laws into line with nations such as Canada and Australia, follows Berlin’s moves to liberalise Germany’s antiquated citizenship laws and the introduction of a US-style Green Card to encourage skilled labour to come of the country.

Indeed, German business sees the new immigration laws as a way of helping to meet skilled labour shortages in the nation.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: German news