- Italy backs Merkel in warning against closing borders
- Europe's refugee crisis debated after partial Syria truce
Germany and Italy cautioned against expecting a tentative peace deal for Syria to bring a quick end to Europe’s refugee crisis, warning that the influx of migrants to Europe will go on for years.
A day after world powers agreed on a partial cease-fire in Syria’s civil war, a senior aide to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni underscored cooperation with Turkey to try to stop migrants before they cross into the European Union and warned against a rush to close Europe’s internal borders.
“If we sell to our public opinion that there is a quick fix of the migration issue we are selling something very poisonous,” Gentiloni said during a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference on Friday.
With EU countries reintroducing border controls and the threat of terrorism associated with the Syrian conflict looming over the continent’s largest cities, the refugee crisis has exposed fault lines across European politics. EU leaders will wrestle with the crisis at a summit on Feb. 18-19 in Brussels after failing since last year to come up with a unified approach.
Germany took in almost 1 million refugees in six months last year because the stability of Europe and the Middle East “largely depends on whether we handle this challenge with care or whether we handle it in a way that is unpredictable and comes to devastating results,” Peter Altmaier, Merkel’s chief of staff, said on the same panel. “It is not a transitional problem, it is a challenge we will face for the next couple of years.”
As Merkel pledges to reduce the influx to Germany, data suggest the crisis is escalating. This year, 80,754 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe, mainly Greece, though Feb. 9, according to the United Nations refugee agency. About 40 percent are fleeing war-torn Syria and one third are children.
“Locking of doors is not a solution,” Gentiloni said, warning European governments against further reintroduction of border checks at internal frontiers. Earlier in the day the EU said the region’s passport-free Schengen area is “at serious risk” and blamed Greece for not doing enough to stem the refugee flow.
With Merkel this week urging Turkey to make good on pledges to do more to halt the flow of refugees bound for Europe, Altmaier lauded the nation for its part in solving the crisis,
Turkey “has behaved in a way that is more committed to humanitarian values and values of the international than many other countries in Europe,” he said “As my personal opinion I’m wholeheartedly convinced that Turkey is a safe countries, at least for refugees.”