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Changing attitudes towards migration within Germany

Gathered in Brussels, the European Foreign Affairs Ministers talked about Europe’s refugee crisis on the sidelines of their meeting, Arte reports. A continued flow of refugees has been observed on the Balkan route and the refugees want to join Western Europe despite the very harsh climate conditions. Europe’s politicians are responding by burying their heads in the sand with their attempt to shift the refugee issue back to the Balkans, Greece and Turkey, Der Standard comments.

Arte reports that Austria had decided to further push back migrants, and the country’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kurz has defended during the meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Ministers in Brussels, stricter border controls in a move to make other EU member states take action, a strategy criticised by Germany, ORF1 notes. According to Minister Kurz, “welcoming refugees with open arms is not the right answer to the refugee crisis. We need another response now and we need to stop the refugee influx. Ideally, it must be done at the EU’s external borders. If that does not working, it must be done at national borders,” he further stressed. Vienna wants to put pressure on Greece which has always allowed migrants cross its borders to go to the North, adds Arte.

During his visit to Berlin, the Greek President Pavlopoulos praised German Chancellor Merkel’s courageous policy, Arte further reports. The German Chancellor is counting on a European response as well as on strengthened control of Europe’s external borders; which is already the case between Greece and Macedonia. Replying to criticism by former CSU party chairman and former minister-president of Bavaria Stoiber in Süddeutsche Zeitung, German government spokesperson Steffen Seibert said on Monday that Chancellor Merkel insists on her refugee policies and won’t change them, Magyar Hirlap reports, while NRC Next reports about the members of Chancellor Merkel’s own political group gathering signatures to demand a change in Germany’s migration policy. According to the German media, about 40 out of 311 members of the CDU and the CSU have signed the letter. CSU leader Horst Seehofer wants a limit of 200,000 refugees in Germany and has warned he would submit the issue to the Constitutional Court if the government does not act within two weeks, NRC Next adds.

More and more of Chancellor Merkel’s partners have started to turn their back on her migration policy, Les Echos notes, adding that, under unprecedented pressure, she keeps insisting that she wants to “significantly reduce” the number of asylum seekers – 2,000 of them were chased to the Austrian border during the first two weeks of January. Looking at the changing attitudes towards migration within Germany, a Wall Street Journal article stresses that the country’s constitution has asylum as a right, however in reality limits do exist, and extra pressure is being applied by neighbouring countries which have been imposing border controls that have severely strained the Schengen agreement. The European response desired by Chancellor Merkel is taking a long time to come, Les Echos stresses, and it is not certain that Wolfgang Schäuble’s proposal of a fuel-tax to finance the refugee crisis will be helpful.

In an interview with Die Welt Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar defends Chancellor Merkel’s refugee policy, while pointing out that after Sweden, Denmark and Germany started to take action to curb the influx of refugees, Slovenia has been taking in more refugees than it can. Slovenia and Croatia are reportedly ready to suspend Schengen and to reintroduce ID checks at borders, if Austria and Germany decide to limit the number of migrants they can take in, tgcom24 reports, as Italian media more generally speak of a domino effect. PM Cerar has indeed announced, as Dnevnik reports, the adoption of proportionate measures on Slovenian borders, should an agreement fail to be reached on the Austrian proposal for stricter controls over the movement of refugees on the Western Balkan migration route, and should the countries to the north implement unilateral measures – a story garnering media attention in Croatia as well.

For Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the EU must not take national and regional decisions on immigration, but joint European decisions. The EU, he says in an interview with La Stampa, needs to stop the migrant influx as soon as possible. The EU must concentrate on implementing the accord with Turkey, on how to distribute the costs of taking in migrants, and on making hotspots work properly before the numbers increase in spring. The Netherlands is in favour of the redistribution of migrants, but Italy and Greece must identify and register them to see if they have the requisites for asylum before they are relocated, PM Rutte stresses.

Seven countries from the Schengen area are currently performing border checks, EC Spokesperson Natasha Bertaud actually said at a press conference, Darik News reports. Three countries – Norway, Sweden, and Denmark – have stopped implementing the Schengen agreement and are using the extraordinary circumstance clause; four other countries – Austria, Germany, France, and Malta – are performing border checks under the clause for foreseeable events.

 

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