Bavarian conservatives increase pressure on Merkel with migrant demands

September 8, 2016 9:46 AM EDT

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BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative allies in Bavaria have drawn up a list of demands, including an upper limit on migration and a burqa ban, deepening the rift between the two parties before next year's federal election.

The ruling conservative bloc suffered a blow on Sunday when Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) were pushed into third place in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern by the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Merkel has acknowledged that her open-door migrant policy - about one million arrived in Germany over the past year - contributed to the embarrassment, which has increased pressure from Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU) for a tougher line.

The five-page CSU paper seen by Reuters, which is due to be agreed at a meeting of CSU leaders at the weekend, includes a legally binding limit on the number of migrants allowed to enter Germany and the abolition of dual citizenship.

"The number of a maximum 200,000 new refugees per year is the upper limit for successful integration and must be written into law," it said.

Merkel has repeatedly ruled out such a migrant cap.

The policy paper, which says it stands for German values and asserts "Germany must remain Germany", also calls for a ban on the burqa, the enveloping outer garment worn by some Muslim women, and the niqab, a facial veil which reveals only the eyes.

"Whoever doesn't wish to do without a burqa or a niqab should look for a different country," it said.

The CSU paper, in part a repetition of earlier demands, raises the pressure on Merkel to adopt a tougher migrant policy before the conservatives agree an election campaign.

The CSU and CDU form a parliamentary bloc and agree on a joint candidate for the chancellorship.

"OPEN ATTACK"

Katarina Barley, general secretary of the Social Democrats, junior partner in Merkel's coalition, said the CSU paper was aimed at "sabotaging" the government.

"This is another open attack on Angela Merkel," Barley told the German Funke Mediengruppe newspaper chain, adding:"I expect the conservatives to continue to govern with us constructively."

CSU leader Horst Seehofer has not yet endorsed Merkel and Sunday's regional election defeat prompted speculation that she may not stand for a fourth term. Her popularity has waned in the last year due to her handling of the migrant crisis but she is still the only obvious conservative candidate.

Merkel has urged lawmakers to tone down their rhetoric in response to the migrant crisis and the growing popularity of the AfD, urging all mainstream parties to counter its simplistic slogans with facts to win back voters' trust.

The inflow of migrants, many of them fleeing conflicts in Syria and elsewhere, has fallen sharply in recent months due to tighter European border controls and a repatriation deal between the European Union and Turkey.

The total number of refugees in Germany stood at 1.38 million at the end of June, up from 1.25 million at the end of 2015, Germany's taz newspaper reported on Thursday, citing data provided by the migration office to the Left party.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Gareth Jones)



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