Merkel to address parliament ahead of migration push in Brussels

Angela Merkel is expected to defend her push for an international response to Europe's refugee crisis Wednesday when she appears before a German legislature that contains many critics of those very same policies.

The chancellor's decision to keep German borders open and work to solve the refugee crisis with EU partners has received strong criticism at home and within the ranks of her own conservative alliance.

However, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker gave his firm backing to Merkel in an interview with mass circulation newspaper Bild on Wednesday, saying that she would "outlast all her critics in office."

In her address, which comes ahead of an EU summit starting Thursday, Merkel is expected to reiterate her stance that the refugee crisis can only be solved through cooperation between member states.

The two-day summit will centre on EU demands to fairly distribute migrants across members states and ways for Turkey and Greece to cooperate in efforts to stem the influx by securing the bloc's external borders.

"The European migration policies [Merkel] and I are pursuing will prevail," Juncker said. "It is political leadership to say 'we can do it.' Anything else is capitulation to the populists."

Juncker also pointed to progress that has already resulted from the Turkey deal. The number of people entering Greece from Turkey has fallen, and nine out of 10 migrants are now being fingerprinted on arrival, he said.

But Austrian Chancellor Walter Faymann said that, though he supported Merkel's coordinated EU push, it would not be enough to control migration and that border controls at the national level were necessary.

"We have taken steps that Germany will also take [in due course]," he told Austrian newspaper Kurier, referring to his government's decision to impose daily quotas on refugee arrivals. "I am convinced that we will be in sync again soon."

In the interview, Faymann aligned himself with four Central European countries - Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia - that say Europe needs an alternative plan if the current measures fail.

The so-called "Plan B" calls for a barrier along Greece's borders with Bulgaria and Macedonia. But EU officials have warned against shuttering national borders and effectively excluding Greece from the visa-free Schengen zone.

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday that the survival of Schengen rested on the ability to secure the EU's external borders, and lent his support to Merkel's effort to resist unilateral measures.

"Our ideals of peace, freedom and justice are only possible if we act in unison as Europeans," he said.

Last update: Wed, 17/02/2016 - 13:28
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