Germany’s two largest political parties have entered formal negotiations to renew a “grand coalition,” with the future of Germany’s migration policies hanging in the balance. Formal talks began last week between the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). The two sides agreed to a blueprint for negotiations earlier this month.

Key Points:

  • Immigration remains one of the key areas of contention. The two sides tentatively agreed earlier this month that Germany would limit its acceptance of refugees to about 200,000 a year. The parties have now cleared what observers said was a key hurdle this week, agreeing to extend a suspension of family reunifications migrants with “subsidiary protection” through July 31. Family reunification for those with subsidiary protection will begin again on Aug. 1, but under the current plan, the country would impose a monthly cap of 1,000 new migrants arriving in the country to join family members in this category.
  • The potential impact on high-skilled migration remains to be seen. The CDU supports the current limits on skilled migration from outside the EU to those who have a firm job offer in Germany, with some exceptions for privileged nationalities who do not have to fulfil the requirement of being a high-skilled worker in order to obtain work authorization. SPD would like to move away from this approach and adopt a points system similar to that of Canada, where migrants would be awarded points based on skills, education and other job-market criteria. A trial of this type of program is underway in the state of Baden-Württemberg. How any changes to high-skilled migration would fit in with the current EU Blue Card scheme remains unclear at this point.

Background: Angela Merkel won a fourth term as Germany’s chancellor in September, but the victory was dampened by a weak showing for her party and a stronger than expected finish for the far-right Alternative für Deutschland. SPD also had a relatively weak showing in the election and initially said it would move into opposition rather than join a coalition government. The CDU/CSU-SPD talks only began after talks between the CDU/CSU and the business-friendly Free Democrats and the Greens fell apart last fall. The BBC has reported that Merkel would like to see the current round of negotiations wrapped up by Feb. 12.

BAL Analysis: The negotiations over the next couple of weeks could offer strong indications of what policies Germany might develop on immigration, for high-skilled immigrants, refugees and their family members. BAL will continue to follow matters in Germany and will alert clients to any significant changes.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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