BERLIN, Dec 19, (Agencies): Germany’s Cabinet has approved a plan to expand a system of visas allowing people from outside the European Union to seek jobs as it tries to tackle a shortfall of skilled workers. Ministers also approved Wednesday a plan to resolve the status of rejected asylum-seekers who have found long-term work in Germany and are well-integrated. The limitedperiod visas, currently available to university graduates, will be expanded to migrants with professional qualifications and German language knowledge.
Labor Minister Hubertus Heil said the aim is to have the system, which ministers agreed to in principle in October, take effect at the beginning of 2020. Like many other European countries, Germany is trying to strike a balance between the needs of its labor market, an aging native population and concern about immigration. In other news, Germany’s highest court has thrown out complaints from the far-right Alternative for Germany party claiming Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2015 decision to allow in hundreds of thousands of migrants was a constitutional violation.
The party, known as AfD, argued that Merkel’s decision not to refuse migrants’ entry at Germany’s borders violated parliament’s right to participate and other principles. But the Federal Constitutional Court said Tuesday that the three complaints didn’t meet prerequisites for a constitutional hearing because the AfD “failed to sufficiently substantiate that the federal government’s decisions on this matter violated or directly threatened its rights.”
It also noted that while the AfD argued parliament should have been enlisted to draft a “migration management act,” the party also stated its “unwillingness to participate in the introduction of a corresponding bill.” German conservative Friedrich Merz, who narrowly lost the race to succeed Angela Merkel as leader of the Christian Democrats, says he is ready to go back into politics full time and could even serve as a minister.
Merz’s loss to Annegret Kramp- Karrenbauer, Merkel’s protege, in the leadership contest this month, highlighted deep divisions in the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) that the party is eager to heal ahead of four regional elections next year. Merz told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that he and Kramp-Karrenbauer had discussed how he might work in the CDU, though he refused to divulge details.
“I have renewed my offer once more to really go into politics with all my strength and to give up my previous work as well,” Merz told the newspaper in an interview released on Tuesday. Merkel, German chancellor for the last 13 years, decided in October to step down as party leader after the CDU haemorrhaged support in another regional vote. She still hopes to stay on as chancellor until 2021, but further poor performances next year would further weaken both Merkel and her ruling coalition.
Merz appeals to the right of the CDU and party officials in eastern Germany would like him to play an active role in campaigning to head off the far-right. Three of next year’s regional votes will be in eastern states – Brandenburg, Saxony and Thuringia – where the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) is particularly strong.
A trained lawyer who holds numerous non-executive company board positions, Merz returned for the leadership contest after a decade in the political wilderness. Asked whether he could imagine taking on a ministerial role, Merz told Frankfurter Allgemeine: “I think I would be up to such a role given my experience in the economy and politics.” But he stressed any decision was up to Merkel. Merz, 63, lost out to Merkel in a power struggle in 2002 and has been out of the Bundestag since 2009. On his return to politics to seek the CDU leadership, he was backed by party members tired of Merkel’s consensual politics.