Friday

21st Sep 2018

Hollande to meet Merkel on migration, Ukraine

French president Francois Hollande is travelling to Berlin on Monday (24 August) to discuss the growing migrant crisis with German chancellor Angela Merkel.

The visit, originally planned to cover the Ukraine conflict, comes as thousands of people - many of them fleeing the war in Syria - keep trying to enter the European Union.

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Over the weekend, around 7,000 migrants entered Serbia from Macedonia, en route to Hungary.

Another 4,400 migrants were rescued in a 24-hour period in the Mediterranean, while anti-migrant protesters clashed with police in Germany.

For her part, Merkel has said that, with the Greece euro-crisis in abatement, migration will top the EU’s political agenda after the summer break.

Her interior minister has said that unless the EU acts quickly, its so-called Schengen internal free-travel regime is at risk.

Meanwhile, the Italian foreign minister, Paolo Gentiloni, warned on Sunday in Il Messaggero that “Europe will either rediscover its soul or lose it for good” in the way it handles the problem.

“On immigration, Europe is in danger of displaying the worst of itself: selfishness, haphazard decision-making, and rows between member states”, he said.

Echoing Germany, he said EU free-movement is “at risk”.

Joachim Herrmann, a centre-right German politician has also said border controls should be re-introduced if no solution is found.

Herrmann, the interior minister for the German state of Bavaria, said if other EU states do not increase the number of refugees they accept, Germany may be forced to reinstate controls.

Germany takes a large proportion of refugees coming in to the EU.

The federal government's vice-chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, has noted it expects four times as much asylum requests as last year - a new record of 800,000.

He called it Germany's “biggest challenge since reunification”.

Gabriel will visit the city of Dresden on Monday, in the east of the country, after a tense weekend of protests.

On Saturday, police clashed with anti-migration crowds. On Sunday, police also used tear gas to break up fights between right-wing and left-wing protesters.

“At the same time as we see a wave of people wanting to help, we have a rise in hate, insults and violence against asylum seekers. That is obscene and unworthy of our country”, Germany's interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said.

According to French presidency sources quoted by AFP, Merkel and Hollande will discuss how to further harmonise EU policy on migration.

An attempt by the European Commission earlier this year to redistribute refugees with a binding quota system met with fierce resistance.

But it aims to propose a new “permanent” mechanism for redistribution of migrants in emergency situations by the end of the year.

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