German minister threatens stricter border controls in migrant crisis

Germany could impose far stricter border checks to bring migration under control, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble threatened Friday, after demanding that EU partners spend far more to tackle the bloc's refugee crisis.

The European Union is struggling to respond to an influx of migrants and asylum seekers that has threatened the bloc's unity and put Europe's border-free Schengen zone into question, as countries have begun reintroducing border controls.

Germany has been the main destination for arrivals, with 1.1 million people entering the country last year. Many are from war-torn Syria.

But Schaeuble insisted Friday that the issue affects all of the EU, and that "far more money" must be spent to solve it, at a meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels. If necessary, he said, countries could form a "coalition of the willing" to tackle this.

"Nobody should think that it's a problem of one country," Schaeuble told journalists. He cited the example of Sweden - another top destination for migrants - which now requires that anyone arriving from Denmark by bus, train or boat has their documents checked first.

"If Germany took such a decision, that would not be a German problem, but a huge threat for Europe," Schaeuble said, arguing that the best course of action is to bolster external borders and do more to support neighbouring countries such as Turkey.

"The key determining factor is to quickly find a European solution that will enable us to keep Schengen alive and ... not end up damaging European integration," he added.

But Schaeuble's demand for more money met with initial resistance. Member states have already pledged 3 billion euros (3.3 billion dollars) to help Turkey improve the life of Syrians living there, but have not yet agreed how to foot the bill.

"It doesn't seem to make sense to talk about more money - let's get the 3 billion [euros] funded first and use that money to help solve this crisis," Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said ahead of Friday's talks.

"It is indispensable that we ensure that Turkey has the means to ensure that people who have sought refuge there ... can stay, can have a future, can work," added French Finance Minister Michel Sapin, without commenting directly on Schaeuble's demand.

EU Economy Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said it was crucial to ensure the required funding was available to tackle the migration crisis. "We will take all the appropriate measures," he added.

Last update: Fri, 15/01/2016 - 21:45
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