23rd Oct 2016

Schaeuble: Refugee crisis to cost 'more than we thought'

  • Schaeuble: The alternative would be that "Europe becomes a fortress and that would be a disgrace". (Photo: World Economic Forum)

The refugee crisis will cost Europe "more than we thought", and a Marshall plan in the Middle East will be needed to reduce the flow of people coming to Europe, German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble warned Thursday (21 January).

"We need a Marshall Plan for the regions that are being destroyed," Schaeuble said during a debate at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

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"We will have to invest billions into the countries of origin of the refugees in order to reduce the migratory pressure on Europe, he said.

The alternative would be that "Europe becomes a fortress and that would be a disgrace", Schaeuble added.

Last week the German minister proposed an EU-wide tax on petrol to cover the cost of addressing the arrival of migrants.

'Get a grip'

He did not however say how much money would be needed to manage the situation in Europe or help countries where refugees come from.

Speaking in the same debate, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte stressed the emergency of the situation and warned that the EU needed "to get a grip on this issue within the next 6 to 8 weeks".

The Dutch PM, whose country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, said that 35,000 people came to Europe in the first three weeks of this year, compared to 1,600 for the whole month of January last year.

"And this is winter," he noted, adding that numbers would increase four times when spring came.

"We cannot cope with this," he said.

Rutte also pointed out that the Dublin system, in which the country of arrival is responsible for processing the asylum application, "is not working" and that "before we kill Schengen, we first have to make Dublin work".

 But "if Schengen is only a fair weather system, it cannot continue," he warned, as more and more EU countries were reintroducing border controls.

Sitting on the same Davos stage, Greek PM Alexis Tsipras insisted for his part that "the only solution" to the crisis was that all countries share the burden".

Tsipras reminded that his country was the only one standing at the crossroads of two of Europe's three main crises - terrrorism, the financial crisis and the migration crisis.

Europe's fate 'two hours away'

Europe needed "a mechanism that will help relocate refugees from Turkey and Greek islands to the rest of Europe, and we have to include all EU member states", he said.

What was needed was '"to put an end to trafficking of human beings in the Aegean sea and show refugees that they will be dealt with in a legitimate mechanism and that there is hope for them," he added.

Offering a different perspective, the French PM Manuel Valls insisted on the need to face the terrorist threat outside Europe.

"Europe has to realise that its fate is only two hours away from its main capitals," he said, referring to the Sahel region in Africa and Libya as well as Syria.

"The Mediterranean problems are not something that concern only the Mediterranean [EU] countries," he said. "We have to move away from this selfishness and give ourselves the means to meet up to the historical challenges."

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