German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged European leaders to find a multilateral solution to the migration crisis that has continued to stress EU member states since its peak in 2015. In a speech Thursday, she called for the German parliament to pass a new migration measure that will both ease arrivals and distribute asylum seekers more fairly.
“Those who come to Europe cannot choose which EU country they want to seek asylum in,” she said. “Secondly, we cannot leave those countries where asylum seekers arrive to deal with (the problem) alone. If we do not get an agreement with the 28 EU member states, we will then need to consider a coalition of the willing on migrant policy. We need to find better solutions.”
This statement comes just as the European Council heads into a two-day summit in Brussels to address migration. The EU is already dealing with a growing trade war with the U.S., a rise in European populism, and a continuing debt crisis, but Merkel argues migration could be a “make or break” issue for the union.
In 2015, Germany implemented an open-door policy to ease the strain of migrants on Austria and Hungary, allowing more than a million migrants to enter. Since its peak in October 2015, however, the European Council says the number of migrants entering the EU illegally has dropped 96%.
The influx of asylum seekers in 2015 was primarily due to migrants fleeing the Syrian war. While individuals and families continue to cross the Mediterranean from this conflicted nation, the majority of migrants at this point hail from Africa. Merkel said it’s time to return to migration policy with stricter borders and create partnerships with African nations to return rejected asylum seekers.
European Council President Donald Tusk warned member states that failure to implement an effective migration strategy will only strengthen the growing populist movements in Europe. These new movements “offer simple answers to the most complicated questions,” he wrote in a letter to all council members.
“More and more people are starting to believe that only strong-handed authority, anti-European and anti-liberal in spirit, with a tendency towards overt authoritarianism, is capable of stopping the wave of illegal migration,” he continued. “If people believe them, that only they can offer an effective solution to the migration crisis, they will also believe anything else they say. The stakes are very high. And time is short.”
With western tensions high due to President Donald Trump’s own “America first” policies, Tusk said the council “must be ready to prepare our Union for worst-case scenarios.”
The European Council will meet in Brussels Thursday and Friday to discuss a migration solution.