BERLIN – Germany's most influential business organizations called Friday for an end to bickering within Angela Merkel's conservative bloc over migration, backing the chancellor and suggesting that the strife is weakening the country at a critical time.
The statement from groups representing industry, employers, trade and small businesses came after European Union leaders agreed on a deal to help ease the pressure of migration.
It wasn't immediately clear whether that — and bilateral talks that Merkel is holding with countries such as Italy, Greece and Spain where most migrants first arrive in the EU — would be enough to heal a rift between Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, that has escalated into a threat to her government.
There was no immediate reaction from the CSU's top leaders, but some positive noises from other prominent figures.
Merkel and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who heads the CSU, have been at odds over his proposal to turn some migrants away at Germany's borders and his threat to push through that plan unilaterally. Merkel has insisted on a Europe-wide solution to migration issues and the dispute has raised the possibility of an end to the conservative parties' longtime alliance if Seehofer goes ahead, which could bring down her government.
The CDU and CSU leaderships plan separate meetings Sunday to discuss the outcome of Merkel's negotiating efforts and plan their next steps.
After all-night talks, EU leaders in Brussels said Friday the agreement they had reached would bolster the bloc's external borders and improve solidarity among member nations to ease pressure on point-of-entry nations like Greece and Italy.
Following the announcement, CSU deputy leader and prominent European Parliament member Manfred Weber — one of the party's more moderate voices — tweeted that the summit took a "big step toward a better migration policy."
"Europe stands for humanity toward people in need, determination in the protection of external borders and in the fight against illegal migration, as well as for solidarity with one another," he said.
In an interview with ARD television, senior CSU lawmaker Hans Michelbach said the summit agreement was a positive signal but didn't specify whether Merkel has achieved enough for Seehofer to back off his threat of unilateral action.
Interior Ministry spokeswoman Annegret Korff gave no immediate evaluation, noting that Seehofer has said he won't comment on statements or declarations but speak with the chancellor and others before coming to a verdict.
In their statement, the Federation of German Industries, German Employers' Associations, German Chambers of Commerce and Industry and German Confederation of Skilled Crafts took aim at Seehofer, saying "national unilateral actions do more harm than good" and questioning whether the government has the "right priorities."
In Brussels, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz — himself the head of a right-wing government that has been pushing for tighter controls on migration — said if Germany instituted new measures at its border with Austria, Vienna would "inevitably" have to react. Merkel has repeatedly pointed to the risk of a domino effect of uncoordinated measures that undermines European unity.
Two polls this week have suggested that the CSU's strategy may be backfiring with voters as well, with one on Friday showing Merkel's popularity remaining high.
The German business organizations said there was a need for "European solutions that are sustainable and future-oriented."
"Politics should not be alienated from society," they said. "These party political disputes damage the reputation of Germany. They weaken us on the European and international stage — and in an economically challenging situation."
They noted that Germany conducted the majority of its trade within the European Union, which could be threatened by go-it-alone measures.
"We appeal to the government to become equally aware of its responsibility and role for Germany in Europe and the world," they said. "What we need now is a stable and determined government that works constructively, solution-oriented, and in a sensible way with its European partners."