Merkel Turns to `Coalition of Willing' to Tackle Refugee Crisis

  • Subgroup of EU members to meet next week to discuss migrants
  • Gathering to take place on sidelines of EU summit in Brussels

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is turning to a subgroup of European Union members to tackle the region’s refugee crisis as the bloc as a whole bickers over how to handle the biggest influx of migrants into Europe since World War II.

Merkel plans to meet again with a “coalition of the willing” in Brussels ahead of an EU summit in the city next week. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will attend the talks, which have taken place at previous EU gatherings. Turkey is the main country from which migrants enter the EU.

“This doesn’t have to do with a permanent distribution mechanism but rather a group of countries that are willing to consider” taking refugees once the illegal trafficking has been stopped, Merkel said Friday at a Berlin press conference with her Polish counterpart Beata Szydlo. “We will then report quite transparently to all 28 member states where things stand.”

Merkel traveled earlier this week to Turkey to discuss the crisis with Davutoglu. Merkel said on Monday the only way to end the flood of illegal migration across the Aegean Sea from Turkey into Greece was to replace it with a legal avenue. That would involve the EU resettling allotments of mostly Syrian refugees directly from Turkey in return for Turkey halting the flow of migrants, she said.

The chancellor has thus far failed to secure a wider EU deal to share in housing and caring for those who have already reached the bloc. Germany, which took in more than 1 million refugees last year, has pushed to implement a quota system to distribute migrants among EU members -- something that a number of the bloc’s states, in particular in the east, argue should only be done on a voluntary basis.

“For Poland, a permanent mechanism of relocating migrants is currently not acceptable,” Szydlo said at the press conference with Merkel. “I think we will continue talking about this. But I want to stress that Poland wants to actively participate in solving the migrant crisis because it’s very important for the EU as a whole.”