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BRUSSELS, July 11, 2018 (News Wires) - Chancellor Angela Merkel recalled her own youth in Soviet-dominated East Germany and said Germany was independent in its policy choices in a pointed response to US President Donald Trump saying Berlin was “totally controlled by Russia”.

Three hours after Trump’s startling tirade over German imports of Russian gas and its slowness to increase defence spending, Merkel told reporters on arrival at a NATO summit in Brussels on Wednesday: “I have experienced myself how a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union.

“I am very happy that today we are united in freedom, the Federal Republic of Germany. Because of that we can say that we can make our independent policies and make independent decisions. That is very good, especially for people in eastern Germany.”

She also defended Germany’s contribution to an alliance which Trump says has placed too much burden on the US taxpayer: “Germany does a lot for NATO,” she said.

“Germany is the second largest provider of troops, the largest part of our military capacity is offered to NATO and until today we have a strong engagement towards Afghanistan. In that we also defend the interests of the United States.”

 

 

BERLIN, July 8, 2018 (News Wires) — Germany's interior minister says his bitter dispute with Chancellor Angela Merkel over migration is history, suggesting that the government is on course to reduce support for the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

After a standoff that threatened the governing coalition, leaders agreed to turn back migrants who've already sought asylum in another European nation under yet-to-be-reached bilateral deals.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who sought a tougher approach, told Sunday's Bild am Sonntag newspaper the agreement sends "a signal to the world that illegal migration is no longer worth it." He said of his relations with Merkel: "the windscreen is bigger than the rear-view mirror."

He said the government is on track to tackle the causes of Alternative for Germany's rise. Recent polls show its support level or rising.

BERLIN, July 4, 2018 (News Wires) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday warned US President Donald Trump against unleashing an all-out trade war after he threatened to impose steep tariffs on cars from the European Union.

Both sides were already locked in a "trade conflict" since Trump's decision to slap punitive tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, said Merkel, adding that "it is worthwhile to prevent this conflict from becoming a real war".

Trump on Sunday charged that Europe is "possibly as bad as China" on trade, as he reiterated that he is mulling import taxes of 20 per cent on EU cars.

The EU has slapped tariffs on iconic US products including bourbon, jeans and Harley-Davidson motorcycles, as a symbolic tit-for-tat response to the metals duties.

Taking aim at Trump over his complaint that the EU, and in particular Germany, is running a massive trade surplus against the US, Merkel said that his calculation is skewed as it is based only on goods, not services.

"If you include services like the digital services, then you have a completely different trade balance sheet with the US showing a surplus against the EU," she noted.

"It is almost old-fashioned to only calculate goods and not include services," Merkel told parliament.

Merkel had previously voiced her backing for a "digital tax" that would target multinationals like Amazon, Facebook or Google, which have come under fire for shifting earnings around Europe in order to pay lower taxes.

But the EU is divided over the proposal, as countries including Luxembourg and Ireland are loath to see US tech giants head for the exit.

BERLIN, July 3, 2018 (News Wires) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Social Democrats (SPD) coalition partners said on Tuesday they need to scrutinise a compromise on migrant policy she struck with her Bavarian allies to save her three-month old government before they agree to it.

A deal between Merkel's own Christian Democrats (CDU) and her Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) partners, envisages special transit zones at the German border with Austria where migrants already registered in other EU countries will be held.

They would then be sent back - although Austria has yet to agree to this, and Vienna signaled possible problems ahead by saying it would have to protect its southern borders with Italy and Slovenia if the German deal went into effect.

The new policy which tightens restrictions on migrants is a compromise that allowed Merkel and CSU head Horst Seehofer to back down from their confrontation over immigration that had threatened to break up their coalition.

Merkel said the deal showed Germany was not simply taking unilateral action but working with its European partners.

Seehofer, who is also interior minister and wanted tighter national border controls, caused chaos in the last few days, threatening to resign and then putting that on ice. Now he has said he will remain in his cabinet post.

The row underlined the deep divisions within Europe on how to deal with the migrants who have arrived in the last three years.

Seehofer said he would travel to Vienna soon and had already spoken to Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz by phone. "I have the impression that he is interested in a sensible solution," he said before a party meeting.

Before Merkel can go ahead, the SPD, who share power in the three-way coalition, also has to agree. The party's lawmakers are discussing it on Tuesday. Previously, the SPD had rejected such centres.

Some senior SPD figures were scathing about the deal.

"After weeks of fighting, with ultimatums, threats, swearing, resignations, withdrawal of resignations, the conservatives have at last laid an egg," one of the SPD deputy leaders, Ralf Stegner, tweeted.

"What will hatch from it? What is to be made of it? We will look at it closely," he added.

The head of the SPD's Jusos youth wing, Kevin Kuehnert, told rbb radio the SPD has spoken out against closed institutions for asylum seekers "and therefore I do not expect us to simply nod this through".

Ultimately, however, it seems unlikely that the SPD will torpedo the deal and trigger another political crisis.

CDU General-Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told German television she believed the SPD would back the deal.

"The SPD has said they want to speed up the process," she said. "I think this is a realistic solution that the Social Democrats can agree to," she said.

BERLIN, July 2, 2018 (News Wires) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday will make a last-ditch effort to end a migration row with her conservative allies by holding more talks with her interior minister, whose offer to resign cast doubt over whether her fragile government can survive.

But he was then persuaded by party colleagues to have one more meeting with Merkel on Monday to try to resolve the long-standing row and said he would make his final decision within three days.

Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) relies on the CSU to maintain power through a coalition, also including the Social Democrats (SPD), formed three months ago after an election in September.

Germany's political crisis is the latest sign of a growing divide across the EU between those who want to maintain open borders and those who want to restrict the number of migrants entering the bloc.

The ructions in Berlin were putting pressure on the euro early on Monday while Germany's top share index opened more than one per cent lower.

Officials from the Bavaria-based CSU accused Merkel of rejecting several compromise proposals made by Seehofer to heal the rift with her own CDU.

Seehofer, who has demanded that Merkel toughen her open-doors refugee policy, told colleagues on Sunday that in spite of the measures agreed with EU leaders, he saw no alternative to turning some migrants back at the border. Merkel rejects this.

In an extremely fluid situation, Merkel and Seehofer are due to meet later in the day and before that, a joint session of the parliamentary groups of the CSU and CDU is due to take place, although there was some doubt if it would go ahead.

Crucially for Merkel, CDU lawmakers are backing her - so far.

Hans-Peter Friedrich, a member of the CSU leadership, said that Merkel's rejections of compromises submitted by Seehofer suggested she was happy to see him go.

"Now it depends on whether Horst Seehofer draws his own conclusions," Friedrich told Deutschlandfunk public broadcaster. "Her attitude feeds the suspicion that she would happily accept Horst Seehofer's resignation."

CSU leaders are divided over how to face down a challenge from the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) in October's regional election.

Seehofer told party colleagues at an executive committee meeting on Sunday that discussions with Merkel had been fruitless, according to a party source.

One possibility is for the 70-year old CDU and CSU alliance to split which would rob Merkel of her parliamentary majority. This could see to her trying to lead a minority government, or possibly new elections.

BRUSSELS, JUNE 28, 2018 (News Wires) - Under severe pressure from conservative allies at home, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on European leaders on Thursday to forge a common approach to migration, calling it a “make or break” issue for Europe.

Merkel was speaking in the German parliament before a European Union summit that starts later in the day and is expected to be dominated by migration at a time when right-wing parties are gaining strength across the bloc.

“Europe faces many challenges, but that of migration could become the make-or-break one for the EU,” said Merkel, whose political future is threatened by a backlash against her migration policies from hardline conservatives in Bavaria.

At the two-day summit, leaders will agree measures to restrict arrivals across the Mediterranean, spend more on fighting illegal immigration and step up cooperation to prevent refugees and migrants from moving within the bloc, according to a draft statement.

But three years after more than a million people entered Europe - many of them refugees fleeing conflicts in the Middle East - leaders remain divided over how to handle asylum seekers.

Merkel is under pressure from the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), which faces a regional election in the autumn, to stem immigration to Germany more aggressively even though arrivals have fallen sharply from their 2015 peak.

With Bavaria the main German entry point for migrants, the CSU has said it will start rejecting those registered in other European states at the border from next month unless Merkel delivers a deal in Brussels.

That seems unlikely given divisions between the EU’s 28 member states. But Merkel indicated in parliament she would pursue a “coalition of the willing” by trying to strike bilateral agreements with countries such as Greece and Italy.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told the Financial Times he was open to a deal with Berlin to curtail “secondary migration” of refugees who arrive at the EU’s southern border before heading north.

Italy may prove more difficult. Its new government has rejected any moves that would see it handle more people.

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