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A rescue vessel laden with migrants and refugees seeks port in the Mediterranean A rescue vessel laden with migrants and refugees seeks port in the Mediterranean  (AFP or licensors)

Germany's Merkel urges EU unity over migration

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged European leaders to unite on finding solutions to irregular migration and suggested that failing to do so could threaten the future of the European Union. She spoke while EU leaders were gathering to examine new ways to stop migrants fleeing war, persecution, and poverty entering Europe amid concerns that tensions over the influx could tear up the 28-nation bloc.

By Stefan J. Bos

Ahead of an EU summit on migration, German Chancellor Merkel warns the issue could be a defining moment for the European Union.

Merkel is fighting a battle at home and abroad against critics who accuse her of endangering European security after she welcomed more than a million migrants fleeing war, persecution, and poverty.

But speaking to Germany's Parliament, the Bundestag, she suggested that the EU should work together on tackling the influx of often desperate people from countries in the Middle East and Africa. "Europe has many challenges," she said. "But migration could become a question of fate for the European Union."

Merkel added: "Either we resolve it, and in a way that in Africa and elsewhere one can believe that values guide us and
that we rely on multilateralism and not on unilateralism, or otherwise no one will find in our value system any longer, a system that has made us so strong, and that's why this the stakes are so high."

Ministers complain

Merkel's liberal stance is creating tensions with some of her ministers who want to see a harsher anti-migration response.

She also faces anti-migrant parties in Germany and other countries which critics say have consolidated their powers by exploiting the fear of foreigners.

Merkel's conservative coalition is also under pressure from the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

Amid the turmoil, anti-migrant and more liberal European leaders are trying to reach an agreement.

But that won't be easy.

EU frictions

Italy, the main landing point for migrants along with Greece, has begun to refuse entry to ships carrying people rescued from the Mediterranean Sea.

The EU's smallest member state, the island of Malta, is resisting appeals to do more. France has been involved, criticizing Rome in a major diplomatic row.

In the east, Hungary is leading an anti-migration block with its government confirming that it won't grant asylum to anyone arriving over land.

Though the number of people arriving in Europe seeking sanctuary or better lives has dropped significantly, concerns remain that frictions over migration could further tear up the European Union.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report

 

28 June 2018, 17:48