German vice chancellor tries to calm coalition tensions over refugees

Picture taken on November 7, 2014 shows (left to right) German Chancellor Angela Merkel, German Vice Chancellor, Economy and Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the German Lower House of Parliament (B
Picture taken on November 7, 2014 shows (left to right) German Chancellor Angela Merkel, German Vice Chancellor, Economy and Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the German Lower House of Parliament (Bundestag) in Berlin during a commemoration event for the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. PHOTO: AFP

FRANKFURT (AFP) - Germany's vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel on Saturday accused the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives of playing on "fears" over refugees.

Gabriel, a member of the Social Democrats who, like the CSU, are coalition partners with Merkel's CDU, told the mass circulation Bild daily that Germany did not have a "drawbridge that we can raise" to prevent the flow of migrants.

He hit out at the "panic" he said Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU) was trying to spread and accused it of "playing on fears" as Germany braces for up to a million asylum seekers this year.

CSU leader Horst Seehofer, whose wealthy southern state is the main gateway for the newcomers to Europe's top economy, on Friday threatened to lodge a legal complaint if Berlin does not limit new arrivals.

Facing growing domestic pressure over her open-door policy on refugees, Merkel insists that Germany will manage the crisis that has seen a historic migrant influx and has deeply polarised the country.

Merkel, usually voted Germany's most popular politician, slipped to fourth place in a recent ranking.

On the far-right fringe, anti-Islamic and openly xenophobic rallies have swelled again in the former communist east, and the populist-nationalist Alternative for Germany party has risen to seven percent in recent polls.