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Merkel to Migrants: Learn German or Lose Benefits

From left, Sigmar Gabriel, Chairman of the German Social Democrats, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Horst Seehofer, Chairman of the German Christian Social Union and German Labor Minister Andrea Nahles address the media during a press conference in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, April 14, 2016, on the results of a meeting of the heads of the German government coalition.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government agreed on a measure Thursday that would require migrants to learn the German language and attempt to find work or risk losing their benefits.

The proposed law is a compromise between Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Social Democratic Party after months of disagreement about the best way to handle the integration of more than one million migrants who arrived in Germany last year.

According to Merkel, the agreement contains “an offer for everyone, but also duties for everyone.”

She said the country faces two challenges in dealing with the refugee crisis. The first would be to coordinate the logistics of resettling refugees with other countries in Europe, an issue where she said progress has been made.

The second, which she hopes will be addressed with the new law, is to register and integrate the large number of migrants pouring into Germany.

"We will have a German national law on integration - this is the first time in post-war Germany that this has happened, it is an important, qualitative step,” Merkel told reporters.

The chancellor and her coalition partners agreed on the law after a seven hour meeting that stretched into early Thursday. The measure will be formally voted on by the Cabinet during a closed-door session on May 24.

The draft law also focuses on putting migrants into work programs and job-training courses. Federal funds would be used to create 100,000 new jobs for migrants receiving benefits, but any migrant who quit the program would lose those benefits.

“Only those refugees who work toward their own integration will receive a permanent residence permit,” Merkel said.

Tensions within Merkel's coalition mounted towards the end of last year with all three parties espousing different priorities for coping with the migrant crisis.

Since then, the flow of migrants, many from Syria and other war-torn parts of the Middle East and Africa, has slowed. The EU has also done a deal with Turkey to enlist its help in stemming the influx.

The coalition also worked out a few new measures aimed at combating terrorism that include allowing federal police to deploy undercover officers and giving German intelligence agencies the ability to exchange information with foreign partners.