The protection of the European Union's external borders should not come at the expense of freedom of movement in the Schengen area, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday in her weekly video podcast from Berlin.
The EU has reached a "wholly decisive phase," Merkel said, adding that she had decided "to crusade so that we can protect our external borders, so that we retain the space of freedom of travel, movement and settlement."
As waves of economic migrants and asylum seekers reach Europe, straining the bloc's infrastructure and enabling the rise of right-wing, xenophobic political movements and protests, Merkel acknowledged questions and concerns about the passport-free Schengen area.
"How much do I have to look after my own country? How much can I take part in European solidarity?" the chancellor asked.
The Schengen area's 26 countries allow free travel across their borders without the need for passports or border checks, but some members have reverted to border controls to prevent migrants from crossing.
The question is whether the EU decides to solidify Europe and protect the Schengen area, "or else fall back, so that each state again employs its own border controls," the chancellor said.
Countries of course retain their national sovereignty, Merkel said, but "we should act together" on important issues.