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Merkel warns anti-quota nations

September 7, 2015

Chancellor Angela Merkel says the 28-nation EU must make a "special effort" to help asylum seekers. Vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel says Germany's intake of refugees is the "greatest challenge" since German reunification.

PK Merkel Gabriel zum Umgang mit steigenden Flüchtlingszahlen
Image: Reuters/F. Bensch

Merkel and Gabriel as joint leaders of Germany's federal coalition government on Monday said they were proud of the welcome given to migrants by many citizens in Germany despite suspected far-right arson attacks on intended and occupied hostels.

Their remarks precede a quota plan to distribute refugees across Europe to be outlined on Wednesday by EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Brussels sources on Monday said the EU commission's plan to distribute 160,000 asylum seekers foresaw Germany accepting 40,206 over the next two years, and 30,783 for France.

Alone, at the weekend, an estimated 20,000 reached Germany, mainly Munich from Hungary. A further 10,000, many from war-torn Syria, were expected on Monday.

At their Berlin press conference on Monday, Merkel, who leads Germany's conservative Christian Democrats, warned that the refusal by some EU nations to take in refugees was "unsustainable" and said it was high time for the EU to find a "common solution."

"Otherwise, in the EU one could revert to other ideas," Merkel warned, when asked whether coercive measures were being contemplated against abnegate nations such as Hungary and Slovakia.

"We are a Europe based on values," Merkel said, adding that it was important that refugees be distributed across the EU on the principles of "solidarity and fairness."

"The complete asylum policies as they are practiced at the moment in the EU don't function," Merkel said, adding that creating a standard system would be the "one of the EU's biggest projects in the coming years."

The decision to "develop a common policy on asylum" was agreed in 2007 by EU nations in their Lisbon Treaty. It states that EU asylum policy "must be in accordance" with 1951 UN Geneva Convention on the rights of refugees.

Act with realism and confidence, says Gabriel

Gabriel, who is also Economy Minister and leads the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), said alongside the great readiness to help some German citizens had fears and were worried whether Germany could manage it all.

Needed was "realism and confidence," Gabriel said. "We must hold this country together."

Deutschland Sigmar Gabriel besucht Heidenau
Gabriel heard citizens' concerns after unrest in HeidenauImage: Reuters/M. Rietschel

"Conflicts will also emerge," he added. "The more openly we speak about it, the easier it will be for the political actors to avoid disappointment."

Gabriel said Germany was facing its greatest challenge since German reunification 25 years ago.

Germany's helping hand 'very valuable," says Merkel

Merkel said the image abroad of Germany wanting to alleviate the refugee crisis had historic significance, adding that she was pleased that "Germany has become a country with whom people outside Germany associate with hopes."

"That is something very valuable when one looks back at our history," Merkel said, referring to Hitler's Nazi German regime between 1933 and 1945.

Merkel acknowledged that the six billion euros ($6.7 billion) extra in federal aid agreed at Berlin crisis talks on Sunday for allocation next year so municipalities, regional states and federal agencies can care for refugees could be insufficient.

Ten billion euros from federal coffers was likely, she said, referring to a set of measures including a decision to make initial reception centers weather proof for the approaching winter and humanely adequate to accommodate 150,000.

Länder premiers say funding insufficient

Measures decided so far were still insufficient, said Dietmar Woidke, the SPD premier of the eastern Brandenburg state.

Woidke currently chairs the standing conference of premiers of Germany's 16 states or Länder, which have considerable powers under Germany's federal parliamentary system.

The three billion euros - among the six billion euros decided on Sunday - for municipalities and states would cover only a quarter of their costs for the estimated one million refugees awaited in the coming year, Woidke said.

Regional states highlight shortages

Eastern Thuringia state's migration minister Dieter Lauinger of the Greens said the intended funding was "completely insufficient."

Lauinger told MDR public radio that Thuringia would end up with 78 million euros from Sunday's federal allocation but anticipated costs within the eastern state of around 300 million euros.

Government education sources in Brandenburg's capital Potsdam, quoted by the Catholic news agency KNA, said that state had 3,000 newly arrived refugee children who needed schooling.

Potsdam planned to recruit an extra 124 teachers, but it was unclear whether it even had classroom space in Brandenburg's initial reception center in Eisenhüttenstadt.

Die Grünen Simone Peter und Cem Özdemir September 2014 Potsdam
Greens' Peter and co-leader Cem Özdemir hold sway in BundesratImage: imago

Greens warn against 'token politics'

The Greens federal co-leader Simone Peter told German parliamentary television channel Phoenix that her party was checking the figures to make sure the federal government was not just practicing "token politics."

"If it (the federal government) really helps to accommodate refugees and ensures that they are well taken care of, then we'll cooperate;" Simon said, referring to a voting sway held by the Greens in Germany's second parliamentary chamber, the Federal Council or Bundesrat.

ipj/jil (dpa, KNA, AFP, Reuters)