A proposal that would set daily quotas for the number of refugees allowed to enter Germany drew attention from across the country's political spectrum Monday, and seemed to mark a step towards a compromise between Chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservative critics.
The plan by Julia Kloeckner - a rising star in Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia, which is preparing for elections - would see the creation of border centres from which refugees would enter the country according to daily quotas.
Kloeckner emphasized the proposal - dubbed Plan A2, rather than Plan B - was not out of step with the chancellor's push for a Europe-wide solution to the crisis, which has focused on redistributing migrants across the bloc, securing its outer borders and fighting the root causes of migration.
Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer - who has spearheaded criticism of Merkel's policy to keep Germany's borders open - endorsed the plan, saying there is a lot of overlap with his own policy suggestions, which include capping the number of migrants entering the country this year at 200,000.
Merkel has called that proposal a non-starter. Her view that a cap would run counter to German laws enshrining its duty to provide asylum to those fleeing war was reinforced by the country's leading migration official on Monday, who said the planned restrictions lacked a legal foundation and could only be enforced in tandem with the EU.
Sigmar Gabriel, the head of the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) - which forms part of Merkel's coalition alongside the CDU and Seehofer's Christian Social Union - dismissed Kloeckner's proposal as campaign strategy ahead of state elections, and said it was nothing more than a veiled attempt to limit arrivals.
Merkel herself remained vague as to whether the policy proposal would be adopted by her government in due course.
"Some of [Kloeckner's] suggestions are elements we know, others complement the policies of the government and there is some overlap," Merkel said through her spokesman Steffen Seibert, adding that it would not be adopted in its current form at this time.
Pressure has been building on Merkel to reverse her lax policy to keep Germany's borders open despite a refugee influx that saw 1.1 million people enter Germany in 2015.
Analysts say Kloeckner's proposal may be a strategic attempt on the part of Merkel to amend her policy position.
"In our view, the proposal is a strong attempt to find a face-saving compromise for Angela Merkel to get out of an increasingly difficult and complex situation," said Carsten Brzeski, chief economist at ING Bank.
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