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Merkel, Hollande to respond to refugee influx

The German and French leaders are set to address the European Parliament to pitch for European unity in face of the humanitarian challenge brought by migrants. Germany's cabinet will convene to discuss Berlin's role.

Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Francois Hollande will address the European Parliament on Wednesday to make a fresh appeal for a common strategy to handle this year's surge of asylum seekers in Europe.

"This is a historic visit for historically difficult times," said the president of the parliament, Martin Schulz, a center-left German politician who supports closer bonds between Paris and Berlin. "The EU is facing immense challenges and requires strong commitment from its leaders."

The two leaders hope to channel the sense of destiny contained in the now-famous 1989 address by then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl and President Francois Mitterrand. At the time Germany was still divided and the map was in disarray as the Soviet bloc unraveled.

But the two leaders spoke of the need of a strong European community in the face of the adversity, and the EU's vast expansion 25 years later stands in testament to their vision.

Domestic rumblings strain EU resolve

The German cabinet will also meet to contain rising public nervousness over the situation.

A poll released on Monday by research group Initiative Markt- und Sozialforschung found that 59 percent of Germans said Merkel's decision last month to allow Syrian refugees to enter Germany from Hungary unregistered was wrong.

This has coincided with political tensions in the chancellor's conservative-led coalition over her refusal to place an upper limit on the number of refugees. State leaders have also complained that resources to care for the new arrivals is inadequate.

Following two 30-minute addresses to the Parliament scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. (1300 UTC/GMT), the leaders will face questioning from leaders of the main party blocs, including euroskeptics and right-wing parties hostile to refugees.

Included on the list is the UK Independence Party which is openly hostile to the EU as it exists and the anti-immigrant National Front of France, currently polling higher than Hollande's Socialists and the rival Republicans.

EU offers Turkey aid to contain refugees

Meanwhile, the EU has offered Turkey a plan that would resettle more refugees, but only if Ankara establishes new camps and restricts the flow of EU-bound boats crossing to Greece.

Brussels appears ready to give Turkey more money to deal with the burden of its 2.2 million Syrian refugees under a plan European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker presented to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday.

"It is clear that we need Turkey. The Commission will come to its aid," Juncker told the European Parliament before publicly unveiling the proposals through the commission.

The plan announced contained no public figures. But the EU has pledged to increase the numbers of refugees it resettles from Turkey, above the the 22,504 Syrian refugees it had already agreed to take in July from camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

Turkey has yet to indicate whether it will accept the proposal.

jar/msh (dpa, AFP)