20th Mar 2018

German and Swedish leaders welcome migrants

  • Merkel said all EU states will, 'over time', adopt a more open policy (Photo: bundeskanzlerin.de)

Following a promise by German vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel that his country is ready to give a safe haven to 500,000 asylum seekers per year for the next few years, the leaders of Germany and Sweden on Tuesday (8 September) issued a joint appeal for EU solidarity on relocations.

Germany and Sweden are the most popular destinations for asylum seekers in the EU.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Speaking at a press conference in Berlin, Germany’s Angela Merkel and Sweden’s Stefan Loefven repeated calls for mandatory quotas in the EU, as suggested by the European Commission in May, but rejected at an EU summit in June.

Merkel said unanimity is needed in the Council to introduce the quota system, and that nothing good would come of forcing countries to join it. But she added that, over time, all would take part.

"The reality is, that as 25 countries [with the exception of the UK, Ireland and Denmark] are needed to agree the asylum policies in the European Council, then all must be in agreement. But my experience is that when it looks ever so hard, in European politics it is possible to reach agreement over time", she said.

The quota system ought to be combined with a joint system to return those not granted protection, the two leaders said.

"Those who do not have the right to asylum must leave the country. It goes for Germany as well as for Sweden and we must have a list of safe countries for this purpose. We agree that the Western Balkan countries must be on this list", Merkel said.

Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia, and the UK already have their own designated national lists.

But there are big differences over which countries are on the lists, which criteria are used to define a safe-origin state, and how they are applied in practice.

Merkel said Turkey, which operates huge Syrian refugee camps, will be an important EU partner in the process.

Loefven voiced worries about a number of EU states which, he said "try to sneak around their responsibilities".

He said the voluntary relocations deal reached at an EU summit in July was not enough.

He called instead for “a permanent and binding system that kicks in when the refugee situation changes radically in a country”.

Germany and Sweden are the two EU member states accepting the vast majority of EU-bound refugees and the influx of newcomers do not pose a problem, Loefven added.

"Imagine there are 500 people in the room, and then one more arrives. We can't say there isn’t room for this one person”, he said.

The Swedish PM pointed out that in a global economy, it would be an advantage for Swedish trade in the long term to accept people from other countries as refugees now.

Meanwhile, according to Danish police, 1,238 people have crossed the border from Germany since Sunday and only one in 10 have asked for asylum in Denmark.

Many of them are being held back against their will at the German-Danish border, despite their wish to continue on to Sweden.

Danish activist Annika Holm Nielsen and her friends published on Facebook that they had taken a refugee across the Oeresund to Sweden. She wrote that she planned to take as many across as possible and that integration minister, Inger Stoejberg, would have to put her in prison in order to stop her. Her site had 2.9k likes.

One well-known Danish author, Lisbeth Zornig, picked up six refugees and took them from the border to Copenhagen, insisting it can not be illegal to pick up hitchhikers.

However, people helping the refugees are considered traffickers and risk two years in prison, but many do it anyway.

Some find that their vocations as nurses or doctors oblige them to help people in need, while others say they are willing to run the risk.

Hungary struggling to register all migrants

Hungary is trying to register all migrants in line with EU law, but struggling to cope with huge numbers and with people who refuse to take part in registration.

Sweden beset by anti-migrant arson attacks

Ten asylum homes across Sweden were set alight in October. As police search for the culprits, debate is rife on how to cope with the influx of migrants and the rhetoric of the far-right Sweden Democrats.

German ministries were at war over CO2 car cuts

Foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel was not the only German government official trying to water down an EU draft bill on CO2 emissions from passenger vehicles last year. In fact, three Berlin ministries were contradicting each other behind the scenes.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceConmtroversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  2. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  5. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  7. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  8. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  9. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?
  10. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  11. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  12. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  2. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  4. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  5. EUobserverNow Hiring! Sales Associate With 2+ Years Experience
  6. EUobserverNow Hiring! Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience
  7. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  10. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections
  12. CECEIndustry Stakeholders Are Ready to Take the Lead in Digital Construction