Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble criticized Greece on Sunday over the way it deals with refugees, saying Athens has ignored for years the European Union’s Dublin rules that oblige migrants to file for asylum in the first European Union (EU) country they arrive in.
Schaeuble told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that German courts had decided some time ago that refugees were not being treated humanely in Greece and could not be sent back there, contrary to the Dublin rules.
Greece, a main gateway to Europe for migrants crossing the Aegean sea, has faced criticism from other EU governments who say it has done little to manage the flow of hundreds of thousands of people arriving on its shores.
"The Greeks should not put the blame for their problems only on others, they should also see how they can do better themselves," said Mr Schaeuble, who has repeatedly clashed with Greek officials over economic policy this year.
In contrast to his criticism of Greece, Schaeuble sought to offer to compromise with eastern European states that have voiced reluctance to accept migrants under EU quotas.
"Solidarity doesn’t start by insulting each other," he said. "Eastern European states will also have to take in refugees, but fewer than Germany." The biggest migration crisis in Europe since World War Two also means that European countries will have to increase spending on the military, he said.
"We will have to spend a lot more funds for joint European defence initiatives," Mr Schaeuble said.
"Ultimately our aim must be a joint European army. The funds that we spend on our 28 national armies could be used far more effectively together," he said.
"For Germany, this means that we will have to support our foreign and security policies more strongly than we would perhaps like," he said, adding the Middle East would not become stable without stronger European engagement.
Germany has gradually adopted a more assertive role in global missions. Earlier this month, lawmakers approved a mission in Syria, including sending six Tornado reconnaissance jets, a frigate to help protect a French aircraft carrier, refuelling aircraft and 1,200 military personnel.
Schaeuble said he also planned to top up money for development aid in order to achieve the goal of 0.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) more quickly. Germany currently spends around 0.43% of GDP on aid.