German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, in a rare joint address to the European Union parliament, called for unity in Europe on Wednesday to tackle a series of crises that have shaken the bloc to its core.
Merkel said east European EU countries could be given more time to adapt to taking their share of refugees, but to reject them as a matter of principle was a danger for Europe. “Europe must affirm itself otherwise we will see the end of Europe, our demise”, Hollande told lawmakers.
Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter insisted yesterday that the U.S. is not cooperating with Russian Federation over Moscow’s air strikes in Syria beyond basic safety precautions, describing Russia’s action there as fundamentally mistaken.
The President of the EPP group, Manfred Weber, said if Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon were able to offer shelter to millions of people fleeing civil war, “we wealthy Europeans” must also be able to make the effort.
Hungarian leader Victor Orban and Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico joined others in condemning Merkel for throwing open Germany’s borders to Syrian refugees, saying she has triggered a surge of migrants that Europe can not cope with.
Merkel’s appointment of Altmaier, a gregarious mountain of a man who served as parliamentary whip for her conservatives and admits to a penchant for dumplings stuffed with liver sausage, has been interpreted by a few German media as a slap in the face of the reserved de Maiziere, who was once seen as a possible successor to Merkel.
Following Hollande’s remarks Merkel said that the European Union’s asylum rules were “obsolete” as they put the burden on EU states where migrants first arrive to process claims for refugee status.
The decision to give her chief of staff Peter Altmaier responsibility for political coordination of the crisis comes as reports of violent clashes at refugee shelters and of overburdened local communities deepen the scepticism of ordinary Germans towards the influx.
The tide of refugees led to a few member states closing their borders, Hungary erecting a razor wire fence and a huge row over whether countries would be forced to take in a set quota ofrefugees.
France and Germany have highlighted the need for European countries to act together for resolving the ongoing refugee crisis and the conflict in Syria.
The joint address comes as the EU began a military operation to catch migrant traffickers, with European warships patrolling worldwide waters in the Mediterranean to arrest smugglers dubbed the “mafia of the sea”.
Figures released Wednesday by the Interior Ministry show that about 577,000 people seeking asylum came to Germany between the start of the year and the end of September.
Mrs Merkel told European politicians that Europe faces “a test of historic dimensions”.
Six ships are already in place in global waters off the coast of Libya – the departure point for numerous migrant boats – including an Italian aircraft carrier, a French frigate and one British,one Spanish and two German ships. “Let us have confidence in ourselves, the Europeans,” he said. “This is an historic challenge which is also an opportunity”.