Thursday 22 February 2018

Merkel and Hollande push for joint EU solution to migrant crisis

Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris (AP)
Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris (AP)

Independent national measures to tackle the migrant crisis are counter-productive, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said as she met her French counterpart in Paris to push for a joint European solution to the problem.

Border slowdowns and closures along the migrant route through Europe have meant people are piling up in Greece, overwhelming the country's resources, Ms Merkel said at a joint news conference with French President Francois Hollande.

The two leaders met in Paris ahead of a summit of EU and Turkish leaders to discuss the migrant crisis on Monday.

The Balkan countries and Austria have recently introduced tight restrictions to stem the flow of migrants, which has resulted in thousands of refugees and other migrants being stranded at Greece's border with Macedonia.

"Unilateral solutions do not help us," Ms Merkel said, adding that Europe needs to work closely with Turkey to stop the flow of migrants, and also to secure its outer borders.

Germany and France agree that the EU has to protect its external border to preserve freedom within Europe, get away from internal border controls and for security reasons, Ms Merkel said.

Mr Hollande said France will provide a ship to the Nato force deployed in the Aegean Sea - between Turkey and Greece - to help Europe's external border control.

As temporary controls between several member states are reimposed to deal with the migrant crisis, some fear a full collapse of the borderless Schengen zone through most of the EU.

The EU's head office, the European Commission, has estimated that the cost of fully restoring border controls between EU member states would be as high as 18 billion euros (£14 billion) a year.

More than 1.2 million people applied for asylum for the first time in the EU last year, more than double the number in 2014. The EU's statistics agency said most people applying in the 28 EU countries were Syrian, Iraqi or Afghan nationals.

The bloc has kicked off the distribution of a promised 3 billion euros (£2.3 billion) in aid for refugees in Turkey, formally pledging 95 million euros (£74 million) for educational and food assistance.

Press Association

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