18th Mar 2018

EU dithering aggravated refugee crisis, Merkel says

  • (Photo:

German chancellor Angela Merkel has said that she and other EU leaders are to blame for waiting too long to react to the migration crisis.

"There are political issues that one can see coming but don't really register with people at that certain moment - and in Germany we ignored both the problem for too long and blocked out the need to find a pan-European solution," she told German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung in an interview published on Wednesday (31 August).

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.

She said that Germany, at first, had rejected the idea of burden sharing and of giving extra powers to the EU’s border agency, Frontex, to protect the external boundary of the Schengen free travel zone.

"Back then, we also rejected a proportional distribution of the refugees," she said.

"We said we would deal with the problem at our airports since we don't have any other external EU boundaries. But that doesn't work.

"We didn't embrace the problem in an appropriate way."

Merkel warned the German public that people were likely to keep seeking refuge in Europe for many years to come and that the EU would need to increase development aid to Africa as well as financial support to Turkey to alleviate the situation.

She also warned German politicians not to make incendiary statements linking refugees to terrorism.

"It's simply incorrect to say that terrorism came only with the refugees," she said.

"It was already here in myriad forms and with the various potential attackers that we have been watching,” she added, referring to the fact that most of the recent attacks in Europe had been perpetrated by EU nationals.

The chancellor’s mea culpa was issued on the one-year anniversary of her statement “wir schaffen das", or "we can do this”, which came to symbolise her open-door policy to migrants.

Germany last year took in almost 1 million people, prompting a political backlash against the government and rising support for anti-EU and anti-immigrant groups such as the AfD party and the Pegida movement.

Germany's top migration official Frank-Juergen Weise said last Sunday he expected the country to take in another 250,000 to 300,000 people this year.

Other EU leaders have also blamed Merkel’s policies for acting as a pull factor for refugees.

But her comments on how the problem had been initially mishandled could be aimed at central and eastern European leaders, who still reject migrant quotas, ahead of a summit on EU reform due in Bratislava later this month.

“It doesn’t work for some countries to say: ‘We don’t want to have Muslims at all, even if it’s necessary for humanitarian reasons’,” she told German broadcaster ARD on Sunday.

Under-fire Merkel defends migration policy

The German chancellor sticks by her welcoming policy towards migrants, while a poll suggests more than 50 percent of Germans do not want her to stand for a fourth term in office.

Merkel warns German parties against populism

The German chancellor, in her first speech since the bruising defeat of her party to anti-immigrant AfD over the weekend, defended her migrant-welcome policy.

Evacuated women from Libya arrive newly-pregnant

Niger has temporarily stopped all evacuations from Libya detention centres under an EU funded programme because so few are being resettled to Europe. Many of those that have been evacuated are pregnant, with some asking for HIV testing.

EU billions had 'limited' effect in Turkey, audit finds

The EU got "limited" effect for the €9bn it spent trying to modernise Turkey in recent years, auditors have said. Turkey has been "backsliding" on reforms since 2013 due to "lack of political will", the European Court of Auditors found.

News in Brief

  1. Sweden emerges as possible US-North Korean summit host
  2. Google accused of paying academics backing its policies
  3. New interior minister: 'Islam doesn't belong to Germany'
  4. Hamburg 'dieselgate' driver wins case to get new VW car
  5. Slovak deputy PM asked to form new government
  6. US, Germany, France condemn 'assault on UK sovereignty'
  7. MEPs accept Amsterdam as seat for EU medicines agency
  8. Auditors: EU farm 'simplification' made subsidies more complex

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

Latest News

  1. Brexit and trade will top This WEEK
  2. Dutch MPs in plan to shut EU website on Russian propaganda
  3. Four years on – but we will not forget illegally-occupied Crimea
  4. Evacuated women from Libya arrive newly-pregnant
  5. Merkel in Paris for eurozone reform talks
  6. Commission rejects ombudsman criticism over Barroso case
  7. Western allies back UK amid Russian media blitz
  8. Meet the European Parliament's twittersphere