European center-left talk rising nationalism, refugees | News | DW | 12.03.2016
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European center-left talk rising nationalism, refugees

Social democrat leaders from across Europe gathered in Paris to talk policy. Their discussions focused on the EU's ongoing migration crisis but also covered employment and economic issues.

Saturday's informal meeting of leaders hosted by French President Francois Hollande included German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras, who had "observer" status at the meeting, said the leaders had made progress on a "common front" to tackle the migrant crisis.

The "real threat" facing Europe was the rise of extreme right forces, Tsipras said.

The EU and Turkey are in the process of fleshing out a deal in the hopes of ending months of mass migration chaos. The proposed deal, which has come under strong criticism, involves sending people who take smugglers' boats to Greece straight back to Turkey.

The leaders also discussed issues which have been overshadowed by the migration crisis, including the need for economic reforms to boost patchy growth in the bloc and how to tackle the issue of rising far-right popularity. Also up for discussion was Britian's upcoming "Brexit" referendum on whether or not to stay in the EU.

Keep calm, says Gabriel

Following the meeting, Germany's Social Democrat leader Sigmar Gabriel said his party wouldn't be pushed to change its course even when threatened at the polls by the rise of nationalist parties. The increasingly right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party was expected to make gains in three regional elections being held Sunday which are seen as somewhat of a referendum on Germany's migration policies. Gabriel said the large majority of citizens would choose "democratic parties" and called for a strong voter turnout.

"We shouldn't start to panic," Gabriel said, adding: "There is a clear position that we stand by: humanity and solidarity. We will not change our position now because of 10 percent right-wing radicals."

Following the meeting, he called for increased investment in growth and employment.

se/rc (dpa, AP)

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