BERLIN – Peter Altmaier, who is responsible for overseeing the government’s handling of refugee issues, stated that he was “very optimistic” the CDU and CSU would be able to put their differences aside in the coming weeks.

“The number of refugees has gone down so drastically [after the EU-Turkey deal] that hardly anyone is coming to Germany anymore and that means this dispute about caps might resolve itself,” he said.

Senior CDU member Jens Spahn simply pointed out how both parties had been when CDU had decided to reduce dramatically the number of new arrivals to Germany.

Tension came as Merkel publicly was seeking to implement a welcoming approach in order to accommodate on 1.1 million migrant and refugees within German borders.

CSU head and Bavaria’s state premier Horst Seehofer had hoped that CDU would agree to a cap of 200,000 refugees a year following the arrival of about one million in 2015. That was the agreement made in the CSU conclave in the Bavarian town of Schwarzenfeld called “Einwanderungsbegrenzungsgesetz”. This five-page paper also included calls for the abolition of dual citizenship and a ban on female Muslim clothing burqa and niqab.

Further disagreement arose after electoral defeats and unpleasant polls apparently seem to converge with CSU claims.

ARD TV opinion poll published last week that Merkel’s approval rating dipped by 22 points in the last year and CDU/CSU bloc lost eight points.

Merkel’s conservatives suffered heavy losses in the regional elections of the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern on 4 September. CDU finished third with just 19% of total votes and behind the surging anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD).

In contrast with some official statements, a federal coalition source said that Merkel and Seehofer had a constructive discussion about refugee policy after the elections but the meeting ended “without rapprochement on the cap”

The end of this dispute on migration policy would be critical to face federal elections next year.

Joan Isus, Correspondent (Politics)