• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3
5 things on Merkel's to-do list to save Europe
Photo: DPA

5 things on Merkel's to-do list to save Europe

Tom Barfield · 17 Feb 2016, 14:44

Published: 17 Feb 2016 14:44 GMT+01:00

From its south-eastern to its north-western-most corners in Greece and Scotland, there are battles raging over the future of the European Union – and Germany has a finger in every pie.

European Council President Donald Tusk said this week that Europe could break apart over the refugee crisis or if Britain quits the Union.

"Handle with care. What is broken cannot be mended," Tusk said on Monday.

Merkel unveiled her plans for this week's summit to MPs on Wednesday – and it's one of her thorniest-ever to-do lists.

1. Germany must help Britain get a good deal

Prime Minister David Cameron is coming to Brussels with a different agenda than everyone else.

While Germany is preparing for a dustup with eastern and southern Europe over how to manage refugee flows, Cameron is hoping to nail down a new deal for the UK that will convince voters to vote for "In" at an upcoming referendum.

Germany has been the target of intense diplomacy from the UK in recent months, culminating in last week's Matthiae banquet in Hamburg, which saw Merkel dine alongside Cameron in the historic trading port.

Merkel has been the target of British diplomacy like no other European leader in recent months. Photo: DPA

That's brought Merkel to agreement with Cameron on many points – like the need to protect national social systems from abuse and a bigger say for national parliaments on EU rules.

Merkel thinks that "our job is simply to provide the British government with the best arguments for remaining in a reformed EU".

"Britain is a strong partner in the [European] internal market and for engagement abroad and in the world," she told MPs in Berlin to loud applause.

But the Chancellor will only hand Cameron what he wants up to a point.

Freedom of movement and non-discrimination among different EU nationalities are "basic principles" of the EU that cannot be challenged, she insisted.

Ultimately, "all sides can be satisfied" if everyone is ready to make compromises, Merkel believes.

She can only hope that others will approach the meeting in the same spirit – because that's the only way she'll be able to tackle the next three points...

2. Fight causes of flight

If the number of refugees arriving in Europe is to be reduced, the EU has to throw its weight into solving the Syrian and other conflicts in the Middle East and making life bearable for refugees closer to their homes.

Merkel said that "the current situation is unbearable" in Syria, blaming Russian airstrikes and Syrian troops' actions for worsening conditions for civilians in many of the bloodied country's cities.

She welcomed last week's agreement for a possible ceasefire and repeated her belief that a no-fly zone must be agreed to protect civilians and as a first step in a negotiated peace.

But for Merkel, improving conditions for refugees in neighbouring countries like Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon will reduce the pressure to head for Europe.

"Conditions must become better in Jordan and Lebanon – which has one million refugees and five million inhabitants," she reminded parliamentarians.

"You can imagine what that's like for a country like Lebanon, pulled here and there by conflicts in the region."

That's why she trumpeted Germany's big donation to the World Food Programme last month – part of "the most successful donor conference in the history of the UN" – and called on Europe to finally unlock €3 billion in aid promised to Turkey.

Turkey's granting work permits for Syrians will also make more refugees think twice before making the dangerous trip to Europe, she said.

3. Protect the EU's external border

In fact, many of Merkel's plans depend on close co-operation with Turkey.

"We have to learn to protect the maritime borders of the European Union," she said, rubbishing eastern European calls to build a border fence in Macedonia to prevent refugees travelling north from Greece.

Story continues below…

German Navy ship Bonn is leading the NATO mission to the Aegean sea. Photo: DPA

"A continent that can't agree with its neighbours about this, that hides behind fences some distance back from the real border, that can't be the European solution. I am firmly convinced of that," Merkel went on.

So in Brussels, she'll be pushing her plan to work more closely with Turkeysending NATO ships to patrol the Aegean for people-smugglers' boats, exchanging data with Turkish police, and sending refugees back there if they are rescued at sea – in opposition to eastern European hopes of giving up on Greece.

4. Control refugees already here

Merkel says that a lot has already been done to bring the refugee situation under control within Germany's borders.

The government is declaring more states "safe countries of origin" whose citizens can't apply for asylum without showing exceptional circumstances.

Police in an asylum home in Ellwangen, Baden-Württemberg, in January. Photo: DPA

A faster procedure aims to get asylum applications approved or rejected faster, while Merkel and her ministers have agreed new measures to expel criminal asylum seekers more quickly.

But she added that she believes public opinion in still behind her.

"Those who need and seek protection should get it. More than 90 percent of the German public continue to say anyone fleeing war, terror or persecution should find welcome and protection in Germany.

"I find that wonderful," she said.

5. Make the EU look competent

"People inside and outside Europe must get the impression that it can overcome its problems without damaging itself," Merkel said bluntly from the rostrum of the Bundestag on Wednesday.

Photo: DPA

Her task is just as much about showing the public at home and observers abroad that the German government and its neighbours can agree on marshalling Europe's vast resources to address the refugee crisis – just as they have done at successive crunch financial summits since 2008.

"This is a step on the way that Europe has been taking and getting stronger," Merkel said.

"A stronger Europe means a stronger Germany, better able to – to quote the Finance Minister [Wolfgang Schäuble] – withstand its rendezvous with globalization."

SEE ALSO: Merkel will outlast all her critics on refugees: Juncker

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Tom Barfield (tom.barfield@thelocal.com)

Today's headlines
President who pioneered Moscow ties dies aged 97
Former Cold War President of West Germany Walter Scheel. Photo: DPA.

Former West German president Walter Scheel, who helped pave the way for his country's rapprochement with the communist East, has died aged 97, his party's spokesman said on Wednesday.

Former East to lag behind West for years to come: study
Poverty in eastern Germany. File photo: DPA

Eastern Germany remains economically anaemic with little prospect of catching up with the rest of the country by 2030, a study published on Wednesday said.

Turkey's spy network in Germany 'thicker than Stasi's'
Photo: DPA.

Turkey has around 6,000 informants working in Germany, which experts say means they're each monitoring more people than the Stasi did in West Germany during the Cold War.

Germany's first 'intelligent' bridge to open in Nuremberg
File photo: DPA

An €11 million bridge, which is nearing completion in northern Bavaria, is set to include technology never seen before on the German Autobahn.

Stockpile food in case of attack, Germany tells citizens
Photo: DPA

Germany on Wednesday urged its population to stockpile food and water in case of terrorist or cyber attacks, as it adopted its first civil defence strategy since the end of the Cold War.

Ten injured after freight train crashes into bus in Osnabrück
The crash site in Osnabrück. Photo: DPA

A freight train crashed into a bus in Osnabrück on Wednesday morning, leaving several people badly injured, local media report.

Man wins ten-year court battle over €2.50 surcharge
Photo: DPA

An Austrian man has won a ten year court battle over an extra €2.50 he was asked to pay to get into a swimming pool in Bavaria a decade ago.

In Pictures
Düsseldorf swoons as Prince William comes for royal visit
'Well hello Mr. Prince'. Photo: DPA.

Prince William paid a visit to the Rhineland city of Düsseldorf on Wednesday to celebrate the state of North Rhine-Westphalia's 70th birthday. Here's a look at his royal stay.

Brexit
Frankfurt attempts to charm banks away from London
Frankfurt am Main. Photo: DPA

Germany's finance capital has spotted an opportunity with the Brexit-wary banking beasts of the Square Mile.

How did this bike end up on top of Berlin’s Molecule Man?
A professional climber 'rescuing' the bike hanging from the Molecule Man. Photo: DPA.

Berliners are still scratching their heads over how a bicycle ended up dangling from the capital’s iconic statue.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
What's on in Germany: events for August 2016
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
8,582
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd