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Juncker: Merkel will outlast critics

February 17, 2016

EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has rebuffed criticism of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's refugee policy. His comments come ahead of a two-day EU summit set to focus on the ongoing crisis.

Angela Merkel and Jean-Claude Juncker in Berlin
Image: Reuters/F. Bensch

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker defended Chancellor Angela Merkel's stance on the refugee crisis, telling German daily "Bild" that "history will prove [her] right."

"The European migration policies she and I are pursuing will prevail," he told the newspaper. "It is political strength to say we can do it. Anything else is capitulation to the populists."

While appreciating that it will still take time to implement all of the EU's measures, Juncker insisted that the first successes of the European refugee policy were already visible.

"Thanks to important decisions made by the Turkish government," fewer asylum seekers had reached Western Europe via Turkey, Juncker said. In addition, Greece will now take the fingerprints of nine out of 10 asylum seekers - a huge jump from the mere 8 percent recorded in September 2015.

Juncker also told "Bild" that funds to cope with the refugee crisis had doubled "in record time" and that 10.1 billion euros ($11.3 billion) had already been mobilized through redeployment.

In support of the German chancellor, Juncker also said he was convinced that Merkel will "outlast all her critics currently in office."

EU summit

Juncker's comments on Wednesday came as Merkel prepared to give a statement in the Bundestag - the lower house of German parliament - ahead of an EU summit in Brussels, scheduled to take place Thursday and Friday.

The refugee crisis is expected to be at the center of the two-day meeting of European leaders. Merkel's call for an EU-wide plan to relocate asylum-seekers has met with stiff resistance from other leaders.

Infografik showing poll of how well Germany is handling the refugee crisis
A poll showed a wide majority of Germans did not feel the government had the refugee issue under control

Prior to Merkel's speech, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said that despite resistance from some European states, Germany was undaunted by the prospect of a fight at the EU summit.

"We will not stop to promote a fair distribution of refugees within Europe," the Social Democrat (SPD) told the German press agency dpa, adding that similar to the euro crisis, the EU needs to find a common response to meet the huge test.

"The coming weeks will decide the future of Europe," Maas added.

'Together as Europeans'

In a message to those countries who have so far opposed a "cohesive solution," Maas reiterated that no single country would be able to solve the global problem posed by the refugee crisis alone.

"We are only able to maintain our ideas of peace, freedom and justice together as Europeans," he said, insisting that Europe's external borders must be secured, "so that Schengen, the free movement and the single market have a future."

The justice minister also warned against "counterproductive" plans from Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic to help Macedonia close off the Greek border to refugees in a "case of emergency."

"Debates over the exclusion of member states in the Schengen Area are of absolutely no benefit to us," Maas said.

ksb/sms (AFP, epd, dpa)

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