Germany's chancellor has warned against 'small-mindedness' in Europe's migration crisis. Angela Merkel is facing pressure to reduce the influx of people seeking refuge as the domestic political climate heats up.
In a speech to some 1,200 influential business and political figures in Berlin on Tuesday, Merkel reiterated her call for a "fair" distribution of refugees among European Union (EU) member states. She warned nations who had been only slightly impacted byEurope's refugee crisis against complacency.
"We must not think small on this issue," she told the audience at the BDI industry association event "Tag der Deutschen Industrie" (Day of German Industry).
"I am firmly convinced that we will not manage this challenge at the German-Austrian border," she said, including this warning: "Those in Europe who think today that they are not affected by this will be affected in some way tomorrow, if only through the unity of Europe being questioned."
BDI President Ulrich Grillo called for unity among the ruling parties in Berlin.
'Transit zones' under question
Merkel's coalition government has been under increasing pressure to gain more control over the influx of people, as thousands from war and poverty-stricken nations continue to journey to Germany in the hope of gaining asylum or refugee status. The country is expecting about a million asylum applications this year alone, a quadrupling from last year.
Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), have agreed to continue discussing possible "transit zones" in which migrants would be registered upon entry to Germany.
People without realistic claims to asylum would be quickly sent back to their home countries under the new plan. But the Social Democrats (SPD), the grand-coalition partner of the CDU and CSU, have said that would be impractical and would in effect involve interning large numbers of people.
SPD leader and Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel on Tuesday said it was "relatively silly" to be arguing over something which, according to him, would affect only 2.4 percent of arrivals, as the influx of people from Balkan countries considered safe had largely stopped.
Gabriel said it would be better to focus on the situation in Syria, from where many are fleeing.
More talks between the SPD and the Union of the CDU and CSU are planned for Thursday.
Meanwhile, prosecutors in Dresden have opened an investigation into PEGIDA co-founder, Lutz Bachmann for slander, after he compared German Justice Minister Heiko Maas to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels during a rally on Monday. Maas himself has not launched proceedings against Bachmann.
Time to go Greek?
A representative of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) in the central German state of Hessen has advocated a public opinion poll on the refugee crisis, saying the country should emulate the Greeks' frequent public votes on the euro-crisis.
The leader of the FDP in the state parliament, Florian Rentsch, told Tuesday's edition of "Die Welt" newspaper that Merkel should have the "courage" to ask the population directly whether they agreed with the course she was taking.
Rentsch thought the majority of Germany did not agree with Merkel's position. "The results of this public opinion poll would not be legally binding, but Mrs Merkel needs to learn what the people really think and draw conclusions from that," he said.
The FDP, a former federal coalition partner with Merkel's CDU, failed to gain enough votes in the 2013 elections to be represented in the Bundestag, but is still represented in several state parliaments.
se/jm (epd, Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP)