"We must find a common response," says Chancellor

Because Macedonia has closed its border with Greece, refugees are stranded near the Greek village of IdomeniPhoto: SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty Images

Angela Merkel does not see the closing of borders along the Balkan route as the right way to resolve the refugee crisis. She made her views very clear in an interview with German broadcaster MDR.

Although the unilateral decision of Austria and other Balkan states means that fewer refugees are arriving in Germany, it has only aggravated problems in Greece, she pointed out.

Lasting solution needed

A lasting solution is needed, as agreed at the EU-Turkey summit on Monday. The EU must manage to reach agreements with Turkey and to get the reallocation of refugees moving, stressed Angela Merkel. Only then can Greece cope with the burden in the long term. "And that is why the problem is not solved by one party making a decision," she said, commenting on the decisions taken by a number of Balkan states to close their borders. "What is needed is a decision that is right for all 28 states."

EU-Turkey Action Plan

The Chancellor pointed out that many parts of the EU-Turkey Action Plan still have to be worked out in detail. In principle the plan provides for illegal migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey to be returned to Turkey. In return, Syrians in Turkey are to be admitted to the EU.

Angela Merkel explained that the UN refugee agency would play a major role in deciding which refugees would be admitted to the EU. It has long-standing experience with resettlement programmes and can make its selection on the basis of objective criteria.

The refugees currently stranded in Greece will not be forcibly deported to Turkey, said Angela Merkel. Every individual is entitled to have his or her case considered.

Summit marked a turning point says Peter Altmaier

Peter Altmaier, the German government’s refugee coordinator, sees the agreement reached at the EU-Turkey summit as a "turning point". "For the first time we have a concrete chance of resolving the refugee crisis without abandoning our humanitarian principles," he said in an interview with the German daily newspaper Die Welt on 10 March. This is the first time that Turkey has made its offer in this form. "This instrument is suited to putting a complete stop to the activities of traffickers and smugglers," he said.

Peter Altmaier sees Turkey as a reliable partner. "In the face of this refugee crisis, Turkey has acted as a better European than several European states," he said. Turkey is more democratic and based more on the rule of law than most other countries in the region. This makes it right to attempt to engage in concrete cooperation.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

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