Merkel defends contested refugee stance ahead of congress, EU meet

12th December 2015, Comments 0 comments

German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended her open-door policy on refugees in an interview published Saturday ahead of a key party congress and an EU summit likely to see her stance come under fire.

Merkel said she was working on reducing the number of migrants coming to Europe's biggest economy, which is bracing for the expected arrival this year of one million people fleeing war and poverty.

However she added that "it's illusory to believe that the problem of refugees can be resolved at the German-Austrian border.

"The large movements of refugees can only be resolved through international cooperation," Merkel told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.

And she urged improved protection of the EU's external borders, as well as increased cooperation with Turkey from where most of the Syrians fleeing their country's four-year conflict set off across the Mediterranean.

Merkel also reiterated the need to preserve Europe's passport-free Schengen zone. "We all value the free movement of people, goods and services. And no country in Europe needs that like Germany.

"But it can only function long-term if the external borders of the EU are protected," she said, ahead of an EU summit Thursday and Friday.

The German chancellor's sudden move in early September to unconditionally welcome asylum seekers from Syria created a rift within the EU, where some countries accused her of exercising a "pull" effect on migration.

As the migrant flow swelled, several countries within the Schengen area, including Germany, reintroduced border checks, raising fears for the future of free movement with the 26-country bloc.

Merkel will also seek to stamp out dissent in her conservative Christian Democratic Union over the record refugee influx at a party congress on Monday.


© 2015 AFP

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