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Germany: Agreements on Diesel and Immigration

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During nightly marathon talks, the heads of the parliamentary groups of the three parties CDU, CSU and SPD, which are part of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government coalition, agreed on a list of measures which are supposed to avoid driving bans for old vehicles with Diesel engines in German cities. They also discussed so-called ‘lane changes’ in immigration and reached a settlement in this regard too.

Shortly before 3 a.m. on Tuesday, the participants announced a “concept for clean air and for safeguarding individual mobility”. The SPD’s chairlady Andrea Nahles said early this morning, the agreement did contain an accord regarding the funding of upgrades for older Diesel engines.

The details of the agreement reached will be announced during the day by the ministers in charge. Apart from Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU), Economy Minister Peter Altmaier might be involved here. The question of retrofitting devices to Diesel engines in order to decrease dangerous emissions is mainly a financial one.

According to participants, the negotiations last night were difficult. Purchasing incentives for new vehicles were a subject as well. This aspect is part of the list of measures which are supposed to get rid of some emissions in cities all over Germany.

Since many drivers of cars with old Diesel engines can not afford new vehicles, the question was whether the auto industry would have to fund upgrades for old Diesel engines, an approach which was rejected at first, by the industry itself as well as conservatives in the government.

Driving bans for old Diesel cars are already in place on two major streets in Hamburg. In the southern German city of Stuttgart, an extensive driving ban is being prepared. The situation in Frankfurt am Main is similar. Here, a court recently ordered measures of this kind. In these three cities, the air pollution measured exceeds the limits of a regular basis.

During the talks in Berlin, the coalition also discussed migration. According to Andrea Nahles, there is an agreement on the question how to proceed with migrants who are qualified employees. In a future immigration law, so-called ‘lane changes’ will be an option. This means that rejected asylum seekers could be allowed to stay if they make a living and are well integrated at the same time.

The discussion about ‘lane changes’ started when cases were publicized in which asylum seekers whose applications were rejected were picked up from their jobs and sent back to their countries of origin, even though they did very well in Germany. But also generally, the coalition wants to facilitate immigration for qualified employees, also by providing German language classes abroad and by speeding up the process of the recognition of degrees acquired in non-E.U. countries.

The goal of the measures the coalition agreed on is to make immigration an advantage for the industry more than it already is. ‘Lane changes’ were originally rejected by Angela Merkel’s conservative party CDU and its Bavarian sister party CSU, while the SPD wanted to have this kind of exception.

After the scandals and quarrels of the past weeks, which had almost torn the government apart, the coalition now demonstrated its ability to act, by coming up with agreements on Diesel and immigration relatively quickly. The three parties involved wanted to do so ahead of the federal state elections in Bavaria and Hesse, which will take place later this month.

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