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19th Oct 2019

Merkel and Hollande short of ideas on refugee crisis

  • "If we don't bear in mind our identity and our values, we will loose them and then we would betray ourselves," Merkel said. (Photo: European Parliament)

Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande have called on the European Union to show unity and respect the values on which it was built, but stopped short of ideas on how to tackle Europe's problems.

The common address by the German chancellor and the French president to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday (7 October) was dominated by the refugee crisis.

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They stressed the importance for Europe to help and welcome the people fleeing wars in the Middle East or Africa and the need for a common approach.

"We are stronger together than when we are separate," Merkel said, stressing the need for "cohesion".

The EU is based on the values of human dignity, tolerance, the respect of human right ans solidarity, she noted.

"If we don't bear in mind our identity and our values, we will loose them and then we would betray ourselves”.

“To shut ourself off from all this in the time of the internet is illusory”, she added.

'Act at the root'

The leaders said Europe should help the countries hosting millions of refugees and try to stop the Syria in order to reduce refugee numbers.

"Europe was late to understand that tragedies would not be without consequences for her," Hollande said.

"We must help Turkey if we want to Turkey to help us," he added.

He said EU states should "act on a military, humanitarian and diplomatic level and give the Syrian population another alternative than Bashar [Al-Assad, Syria's president] or Deash [the Arab name for the Islamic State group]”.

"We cannot avoid the necessity to act at the root," Merkel said.

She noted that "all international operators" should be involved in the process, indicating Russia and possibly Iran could be part of future joint action.

She did not mention the Syrian president, which Rusia wants to keep in place.

But Hollande said it would "not be possible to have the opposition and the the torturer of the Syrian people" around the same table.

Merkel and Hollande stressed the need to strengthen EU borders.

"Pretending that Schengen, in its current operations, makes it possible to resist the pressure would be a mistake," Hollande said, calling for the creation of a European corps of border guards and coast guards.

Merkel said the EU’s so-called Dublin system to mange asylum requests is "obsolete”.

Eurozone

Both Merkel and Hollande also linked Europe's power to a more integrated eurozone. Merkel didn’t give any details, but Hollande mentioned a part of his vision for new, euro-linked institutioms.

Strenghtening the eurozone will require "institutional choices which will commit voluntary states," he said.

Twenty sic years after a similar common address by Germany's Helmut Kohl and France's Francois Mitterrand as the Berlin Wall was falling, Merkel said Europe had "overcome differences between east and west”.

Eurosceptics

Hollande warned that the financial crisis helped eurosceptics and sovereignists, but said they have little to offer people.

"Sovereignism is declinism," he said. "It is dangerous to leave no hope and built nothing together.

The post-speech debate saw Nigel Farage, a British eurosceptic, accuse Germany of dominating Europe.

It also saw French far-right leader Marine Le Pen attack Hollande, calling him a "vice-chancellor administrating the French province".

Hollande snapped back, saying he wonders whether she understands the meaning of democracy.

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