Germany Warns of Consequences for EU Inaction on Refugees

Tempelhof To Expand Refugee Housing

A woman peaks out from a cubicle furnished with bunk beds in Hangar 6 of former Tempelhof Airport that is a temporary home to refugees and migrants seeking asylum in Berlin, on Feb. 11, 2016.

Photographer: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
  • Interior minister says EU member states must share burden
  • German parliament debates measures to tighten asylum rules

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere warned of “consequences” for European Union members should they reject taking on more of the burden for refugees, a sign of the country’s growing frustration as leaders in Brussels squabble over a joint response to the region’s biggest influx of asylum seekers since World War II.

“Should some countries try to solve a collective problem unilaterally and place it on Germany’s shoulders, this would be unacceptable and would not go on long without consequences,” de Maiziere said in a speech to the lower house of parliament in Berlin on Friday. Germany will continue to work for an EU-wide resolution, he said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has struggled to forge a joint EU response and persuade other nations to allow in more refugees after more than 1 million asylum seekers arrived in Germany last year. With eastern European nations balking at taking on migrants, EU leaders accused Greece of doing too little to control the inflow from Turkey and condemned Austria for acting unilaterally by imposing a cap on migration.

De Maiziere didn’t say what the consequences would be. That’s “a hypothetical question,” Interior Ministry spokesman Tobias Plate told reporters.

Unproductive Threats

In September, the minister raised the prospect of cutting off funding to EU states that refused to participate in a bloc-wide distribution deal. Merkel at the time called such threats unproductive.

Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer, Merkel’s main antagonist in the crisis, renewed his insistence on a cap on migration at 200,000 this year as he called for a new meeting with government coalition leaders, Merkel and Social Democratic Chairman Sigmar Gabriel, both of whom reject such a measure.

“The most important part of an upper limit is the signal it sends,” Seehofer told reporters in Munich when asked how a cap would function. Measures to protect the EU’s outer borders, to reduce the influx and to reshape the bloc’s asylum policy haven’t been implemented, Seehofer said after speaking by phone with Merkel.

Maintaining Pressure

In maintaining pressure on the chancellor, Seehofer, the chairman of the Christian Social Union in Merkel’s party bloc, demanded a response to a list of grievances his administration sent to the federal government tied to a threat to file a complaint with Germany’s highest court asserting that Merkel’s government is failing to protect the border.

“I call once again for a response soon,” Seehofer said.

Support for Merkel’s Christian Democratic-led bloc slipped one percentage point to 36 percent in an FG Wahlen poll for broadcaster ZDF, the lowest level of her third term. That compares with 42 percent last August when refugee numbers began to surge. Reintroducing routine passport checks at Germany’s border was backed by 58 percent in the poll published Friday.

German lawmakers on Friday debated a package of measures aimed at tightening asylum standards and restricting family reunions for refugees given shelter in the country. It took the three parties in Merkel’s coalition three months to negotiate the bill after clashing over the details, such as suspending the right to family reunions for many asylum seekers.

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