Berlin (Alliance News) - A German debate over so-called benefit tourism escalated on Saturday, with Christian Social Union (CSU) leader Horst Seehofer accusing his centre-left coalition partners of "ignorance" about their own immigration policies.
The infighting between Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party the CSU and the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), comes after Bulgarians and Romanians gained access to the EU's labour market on January 1.
The disagreement relates to calls by Merkel's conservatives to issue a three-month ban on welfare payments for immigrants from Eastern European member states. A CSU pamphlet suggesting that "those who commit fraud are out" is a particular cause for concern among centre-left Social Democrats.
CSU leader Horst Seehofer argued that the immigration policy outlined in the pamphlet was included in the governing parties' coalition agreement, which was ratified by the three governing parties just weeks ago.
"I find the SPD's ignorance about its own policies alarming," he told Bavarian newspaper Muenchner Merkur on Saturday.
The SPD has accused Merkel's conservatives of pandering to populist sentiment.
Foreign minister and SPD member Frank-Walter Steinmeier had told the German newspaper Sueddeutsche on Thursday that restricting free movement within the EU "damages Europe and damages Germany."
The disagreement forms part of a wider debate within the EU. The lifting of labour market restrictions has sparked fears of an influx of so-called poverty migration, and has prompted similar debates in France, Britain and elsewhere in the EU.