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Germany's finance minister proposes petrol tax to fund refugees

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble says an EU-wide tax on petrol could help finance refugees and strengthen the bloc's borders. His comments come after sexual assaults by foreigners in Cologne caused uproar.

"I've said if the funds in the national budgets and the European budget are insufficient, then let us agree to set up, for instance, a tax on a certain amount on each liter of gasoline," Schäuble told the "Süddeustche Zeitung" daily.

"We have to secure Schengen's external borders now. The solution to these problems must not founder due to a limitation of funds," he added. Schäuble went on to say that if all countries were not willing to pay the tax, he would not mind a "coalition of the willing."

Cologne attacks

The finance minister said it was the

attacks on women in Cologne on New Year's Eve

that had stepped up pressure to find "a solution to the problem of controlling the European Union's external borders." The problem had to be solved at a European level, Schäuble said, adding that not just Germany, but neighboring countries would otherwise suffer the consequences.

Schäuble said he fully supported Chancellor Angela Merkel's efforts to solve the crisis.

The finance ministry has declined to comment on the remarks.

German politicians against 'refugee toll'

Schäuble's colleagues have criticized his proposal. "I'm strictly against any tax increase in light of the good budgetary situation," Julia Kloeckner, Schäuble's colleague and deputy chief of the Christian Democrats, told journalists. Germany currently has a budget surplus of 12.1 billion euros ($13 billion).

The Social Democrats were also against Schäuble's idea, saying they wanted to "hold society together instead of dividing it with a new refugee toll."

More than one million refugees from conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa have arrived in Germany in the past 12 months. State administrations have been struggling to cope with the influx.

Resentment against refugees

peaked after around 1,000 men, believed to be immigrants from North Africa and Arab countries, sexually assaulted hundreds of women in Cologne on New Year's Eve.

mg/jlw (AFP, Reuters)

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