German expellees leader raises pressure on Merkel
Nov 17 (Reuters) - German conservative politician Erika Steinbach on Tuesday
reaffirmed her desire to head a new World War Two museum, raising the pressure
on Chancellor Angela Merkel to settle a major dispute within her coalition.
Steinbach, head of the League of Expellees and a member of Merkel's Christian
Democrats (CDU), has been a driving force behind the museum, which will depict
the plight of Germans and other groups forced out of eastern Europe after the
But Steinbach is deeply unpopular in Poland for forcefully pushing the interests
of expellees and has created divisions in Merkel's government, which took power
only last month.
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle of the Free Democrats (FDP) is opposed to
giving her a seat on the board of the museum because it could damage relations
with Warsaw and has vowed to veto her appointment, which the cabinet must
But Steinbach has the backing of CDU members and the Bavarian Christian Social
Union (CSU), whose leader Horst Seehofer has warned Westerwelle to back down or
risk seriously harming relations within the coalition.
On Tuesday, the League backed Steinbach for the job and she called a news
conference in Frankfurt, pressing the government to support her too.
"The coalition needs to sit down and decide what it wants," Steinbach said.
The issue is shaping up as Merkel's first real test as head of the new
Merkel's cabinet began a two-day meeting north of Berlin on Tuesday to resolve
divisive policy issues and the museum nomination now threatens to overshadow the
The German chancellor has avoided taking sides on the issue, concerned about
hurting ties with Poland but also fearful of a backlash from members of her own
Maria Sheahan, Writing by Sarah Marsh, editing by Paul Casciato)
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