Wednesday

21st Feb 2024

Merkel: euro and open borders 'directly linked'

  • Europe's refugee crisis: 'we do not yet have the order, the control, that we would like to have' (Photo: CDU)

Open borders and the eurozone are “directly linked”, German chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday (11 January) in response to the largest refugee crisis Europe has faced since World War II.

“Nobody should pretend that you can have a common currency without being able to cross borders reasonably easily,” Merkel said according to German media.

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She added that if countries were to close their borders again, the single market would “suffer massively”.

Europe's open borders, as laid down in the 1985 Schengen agreement, pre-date the introduction of the single European currency in 2002.

All EU members are part of the single market. And while not all EU countries have the euro, all eurozone members in mainland Europe are part of Schengen.

But the lack of border controls has left Europe overwhelmed by an influx of refugees and migrants.

'Vulnerable'

“Now all of a sudden we are facing the challenge that refugees are coming to Europe and we are vulnerable, as we see, because we do not yet have the order, the control, that we would like to have,” noted the German leader, adding that the EU must strengthen its external borders to guarantee a passport-free internal territory.

Otherwise Europe would “reach an alternative which will certainly cost us a lot of energy”.

Meanwhile, Germany has increased the number of migrants it sends back to Austria. Many transit through Austria to reach Germany on their route from the Balkans, Greece and the Middle East.

Austria

“The daily number of migrants being turned back has risen from 60 in December to 200 since the start of the year,” said an Austrian police spokesperson according to AFP.

Those sent back were refugees from Afghanistan, Algeria, and Morocco, who wanted to pass through Germany and apply for asylum in Scandinavian countries, the agency reported Monday.

“German politicians seem to have decided to act with more firmness. The difficult thing [for us] is to explain if a migrants asks: Why can't I travel further now if my friend could still do it last week?”, added a second police spokeswoman from the state of Upper Austria.

While Austrian police said they received no explanation, and a German police spokesperson told Reuters “the valid legal rules (…) haven't changed”, there is one important variable that has changed since the new year started.

Merkel has come under political pressure to act after groups of men, many with a migrant background, assaulted women on New Year's Eve in Cologne and other cities.

Cologne attacks put Merkel under pressure

German leader cancels trip to Davos after a weekend which saw far-right protesters clash with police and amid hundreds of criminal complaints over New Year's Eve sex assaults.

Analysis

How Cologne assaults stunned authorities and media

The revelation and coverage of mass sexual assaults on women on New Year's Eve demonstrate the challenges in Germany's debates on integration, political correctness, and sexism.

Would the euro really be in danger without Schengen?

EU Commission president Juncker and chancellor Merkel say there is a direct link between the euro and Schengen, but the single market would not necessarily falter with the reintroduction of border controls.

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