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Merkel’s embrace of Turkey draws criticism from Bavarian allies

Turkish President Erdogan listening to German Chancellor Merkel during their meeting in Istanbul

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy towards refugees and embrace of Turkey drew criticism on Monday from conservative allies, with one senior Bavarian politician warning against any consideration of European Union membership for Ankara.

Merkel’s offer to support a faster bid by Turkey to join the EU is a reversal of her view that it should not become a member and underscores how keen she is to secure Turkey’s support in stemming the flow of migrants to Europe.

Germany is a favoured destination for refugees fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa and expects 800,000 to a million new arrivals this year. Many Germans feel the country cannot cope with the record influx.

Under pressure within her own party to take a harder line on refugees, Merkel sees Turkey’s role as key in helping to manage the influx, which has chipped away at popular support for her conservatives.

But her offer to help push forward Ankara’s protracted EU membership talks was met with misgivings by some conservative lawmakers on Monday.

“We shouldn’t make too many concessions to Turkey: joining the EU is not on the agenda,” Gerda Hasselfeldt, a senior member of the Christian Social Union (CSU), sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), told Die Welt newspaper.

“An accession of Turkey to the EU is out of the question for me,” Stephan Mayer, a fellow CSU lawmaker told the same paper.

Last week, Merkel faced calls from some of her own conservatives to tighten Germany’s border controls and turn away refugees arriving from Austria — pressure she has resisted.

But opposition to her handling of the crisis continues to grow, with a group of conservative politicians working on proposals to close the borders and put up fences, daily Bild reported on Monday.

“We need to stop the wave of refugees. Examining whether to fortify the borders should not be taboo,” CDU lawmaker Christian von Stetten told the paper.

Von Stetten said he was convinced the government had an ‘effective plan’ to deal with the influx of refugees, but added the CDU/CSU parliamentary group would have to react if it turned out in the next few weeks that this assumption was false.

Last week, German lawmakers approved measures to tackle the crisis, including speeding up asylum and deportation procedures and reducing incentives for economic migrants to come to Germany.

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