NEWS

Germany’s Schaeuble urges European answer on migrant crisis as scepticism grows

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Germany's finance minister called for a European solution to the migrant crisis on Saturday, amid fresh criticism at home over repeated unsuccessful attempts to share the burden of the problem across the region.

Wolfgang Schaeuble was addressing the "exceptionally difficult situation" facing Greece, where a bottleneck of migrants has built up, adding to the country's problems as it tackles its precarious financial situation.

In a veiled reference to the division among European Union countries, Schaeuble told the G20 meeting in Shanghai that Greece had not been shown "excessive" solidarity by other states except for Germany.

Austria, the last stop on the way to Germany for hundreds of thousands of migrants, recently imposed restrictions on its borders, setting it off a domino effect limiting the flow of people and leaving hundreds stranded in Greece.

Reflecting on Greece's difficulties, Schaeuble said: "That is why we are fighting with others in the European Commission so that we can we can master this European task."

But Schaeuble faces not only dissent in Europe but also deep divisions within Germany as to how to deal with the problem.

Politicians from the German state of Bavaria, which borders with Austria, criticised Berlin's policy and called for the introduction of similar limits to Austria.

"There is no reason to criticise Austria for taking only 80 refugees per day," Bavaria's interior minister Joachim Herrmann told newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeinen Sonntagszeitung.

"Quite the opposite, Germany should introduce a daily limit based on an cap of 200,000 refugees each year."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is facing the biggest test of her decade in office as she struggles to secure a Europe-wide plan for dealing with the flood of migrants. Many want Germany to close its borders instead.

Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer also voiced criticism, telling German magazine Der Spiegel that the government must take national measures, such as imposing a limit on the number of migrants allowed in, if a European solution is out of reach.

"We can't expect other countries to solve our problems," said Seehofer, who leads the Bavarian Christian Social Union, a sister party to Merkel's Christian Democrats.

"The Swedes, the Danes, the Belgians have all taken action. It's only here where everything is different."

A poor showing by the Christian Democrats in state elections in March would increase pressure on Merkel to reverse course.

In recent campaign appearances, she has warned about the consequences for Europe of border closures. Her conservatives are nervous as they lose ground to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany, whose hardline stance on refugees could bring it big gains in all three German states.

[Reuters]