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German President Gauck calls for tolerant EU response to refugee crisis

Germany President Joachim Gauck has called the refugee crisis the "greatest challenge of the present age." He said it must be solved with European solutions and tolerance.

German President Joachim Gauck on Tuesday called for Europe to show tolerance and

develop common solutions

to an influx of refugees that has tested the functioning and future of the Union.

"Our common experiences and convictions compel us to take in people who are politically persecuted or are fleeing the consequences of war and terror, and grant them protection," Gauck said at a gala dinner in Belgium on the first evening of an official three day state visit.

Germany has been a main destination for more than a million of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty over the past year, something Gauck recognized had caused domestic concerns over integration.

"We are hearing concerns in our society; many fellow citizens are warning of an excessive challenge," said the president, whose role is largely ceremonial.

Gauck said citizens' concerns must be taken seriously so long as they are not just built on "resentment or the propagation of stereotypes," a reference to

anti-immigrant and far-right movements.

Germany has led Europe's response to the refugee crisis, seeking to control the influx of refugees and maintain the EU's open borders

while following humanitarian principles.

Gauck is on a three day state visit to Belgium, the first by a German president since 1998.

cw/rc (AFP, dpa)

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