German Chancellor Angela Merkel Wednesday urged an EU “common stance” on the migrant crisis and on protecting the bloc’s frontiers, as eastern members move to shut internal borders.
On the eve of an EU summit, Merkel said “the main thing now is to have a common stance on how to secure the external borders, and here the EU-Turkey plan offers a good solution”.
Merkel, under heavy pressure at home to reduce arrivals, supports a plan under which transit country Turkey would seal its borders and then fly refugees to Europe where they would be settled under an EU quota system.
However, most EU countries have shown little enthusiasm for the idea, and the so-called Visegrad Four — Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary — have openly defied Merkel.
They have pledged to help Macedonia and Bulgaria close their borders with Greece, which would leave Athens with rapidly rising numbers of refugees while effectively excluding it from Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone.
Merkel said that “we will speak at the upcoming EU Council about how we can work together to protect our external border, and I want us to work together on the EU-Turkish agenda that 28 members have decided”.
She was speaking at a Berlin joint press conference with Sri Lanka’s visiting President Maithripala Sirisena before she was set to address the German parliament on the EU summit’s topics.
Merkel, a decade in power, has seen her long-stellar domestic support drop over her liberal migration policy since more than 1.1 million asylum seekers came to Germany last year.
She has also been increasingly isolated on the EU stage, where even a plan from last year to resettle 160,000 refugees has so far seen only several hundred asylum seekers moved to other EU countries.
Merkel conceded that “the issue of quotas is currently not a priority” for the EU, since the bloc had already agreed on the 160,000 figure and now had to distribute them as agreed, she said.