Merkel Says German Role in Refugee Crisis Is Absorbing Migrants

  • Chancellor compares migrant turmoil with European debt crisis
  • Merkel calls refugee issue `second-wave' test for Europe

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany’s big contribution to Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II is its ability to absorb a large number of asylum seekers.

QuickTake Europe's Refugee Crisis

While allies such as the U.K., France and the U.S. commit more spending toward defense, Germany can engage by taking in refugees, Merkel said.

“We’re doing less in this area,” the chancellor said in response to questions from students at a Berlin school on Tuesday, referring to defense. “We’re economically strong and we need a labor force while others have huge unemployment.”

The German leader is at the center of the European Union’s refugee crisis after her country took in about 1 million asylum seekers last year, the most since the war. Merkel referred to the influx as a “second wave” of an emergency that’s challenging the region’s cohesion after the euro area’s debt turmoil.

“Europe is being tested from the outside on whether what we’ve achieved, for example a joint currency, has staying power,” Merkel said. During the debt crisis, financial markets tested whether economic divergences would make the currency union “fall apart,” she said.

A cascade of border closures across the EU in response to the wave of migrants has presented a threat to the 28-member bloc’s passport-free travel zone and single market, Merkel has said. The chancellor spearheaded an EU accord with Turkey to stem the flow of asylum seekers to Greece.

“I see the whole refugee question as a second wave, in which the test now is whether we can do what every country can do, namely protect its external border,” Merkel said.

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