Immigration and the handling of Europe’s refugee crisis are among the leading issues in Germany’s national election, as voters prepare to go to the polls Sunday. Up for grabs in the election are the chancellorship and control of parliament. Chancellor Angela Merkel and her CDU party are viewed as the strong favorites, with the Christian Democrats leading in most polls by double digits.

Merkel emerged as the favorite after appearing much weaker politically last year. She was faulted in some quarters for her handling of the refugee crisis, but the number of asylum seekers fell dramatically in 2016 and 2017 after peaking at nearly 890,000 in 2015. The drop is probably due at least in part to an agreement between the European Union and Turkey, under which Turkey agreed to take more migrants. Another factor is that fewer migrants are arriving in Turkey in the first place.

On business immigration, the CDU supports the current limits on skilled migration from outside the EU to those who have a firm job offer in Germany. The Social Democratic Party, which is running second in polls, favors a Canadian-style program 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.

Among the minor parties, all eyes are on the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), which has placed anti-immigrant sentiment at the heart of its campaign. AfD has called for the creation of a new German border police force, permanent controls along Germany’s border and shutting down migration along the EU’s external borders. The party does not figure to be part of a governing majority, but is expected to clear the 5-percent threshold required for representation in parliament.

BAL Analysis: Immigration is a key issue in Germany’s election, but the country’s handling of the migrant crisis has garnered more attention than any potential changes to business immigration. The nature of Germany’s political system means that even if Merkel’s party gets the most seats, it will likely have to join with at least one other party to forge a governing majority. This makes it difficult to predict what impact the election will have on immigration policy once the new parliament is seated.

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

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