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Merkel urges coordinated Afghan refugee response from EU

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday called for coordinated, "controlled" EU action to take in the most vulnerable people from Afghanistan after the Taliban regained control over the country.

Merkel urges coordinated Afghan refugee response from EU
Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa POOL | Kay Nietfeld

Merkel told reporters in Berlin that people fleeing Afghanistan should be helped first and foremost in neighbouring countries in coordination with the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR.

“Then we can think about, as a second step, whether especially affected people can be brought to Europe in a controlled way,” she said after talks with Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.

She acknowledged deep, longstanding divisions within the EU on the subject of asylum, calling a “weakness” of the 27-member bloc “which we have to work on in earnest”.

Merkel’s comments came as Germany tried to establish an “airlift” to ferry German citizens and hundreds of Afghan local staff who worked with them out of Kabul to safety.

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French President Emmanuel Macron said late Monday that his country, Germany and other EU nations would put together a response that was “robust, coordinated and united” to prevent irregular migration by harmonising criteria and showing European solidarity.

“We must anticipate and protect ourselves against significant irregular migratory flows that would endanger the migrants and risk encouraging trafficking of all kinds,” he said.

But Macron stressed that France would continue to do “its duty to protect those who are most under threat in Afghanistan”.

Merkel’s comments come as Germany campaigns for a general election on September 26th amid fears by leading candidates of a possible refugee influx echoing the one that dominated headlines in 2015-16 which brought more than one million people to the country and upended domestic politics.

Merkel has called her welcoming stance then a “singular” event due to a “humanitarian emergency” and vowed in the face of a right-wing backlash that it would remain a one-off.

Her party’s candidate to succeed her, Armin Laschet, has warned since the Taliban takeover of Kabul on Sunday that “2015 must not be repeated”. 

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TRAVEL NEWS

Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

It's official - people in Germany will get cheap public transport for three months this summer after the €9 ticket was approved.

Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

As part of a host of energy relief measures to cushion the cost of living crisis, the German government is offering cheap public transport for the months of June, July and August. 

Monthly tickets will be available at a price of €9 (or €27 for all three months) and they will allow people to use all buses, trains and trams in local and regional transport throughout the country.

So even if people buy the ticket in Munich, they will also be able to use local and regional buses, trains and trams elsewhere in Germany, whether it’s Hamburg or Cologne. 

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

The ticket will not be valid, however, on long-distance transport such as ICE trains or Flixbus.

The offer was put together by the coalition government – made of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the FDP.

The Bundestag voted for the initiative on Thursday, agreeing to give federal states a subsidy of €2.5 billion to fund the project. 

And on Friday, the Bundesrat – the upper house of parliament that represents the states – gave the green light to the ticket, paving the way for it to begin on June 1st. 

States had wanted an extra €1.5 billion funding boost to deal with lost revenue, however it would have been hugely controversial if they had blocked it.

READ ALSO: German states threaten to block the €9 ticket in the Bundesrat

During a debate on Thursday, federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) said the €9 project was “already a success”.

“All of Germany is talking about local public transport,” he said, adding that it is also being viewed with interest abroad. 

READ ALSO: ‘Fantastic’: Your verdict on Germany’s €9 ticket

The Left party (Die Linke) voted in favour of the €9 ticket, but leader Bernd Riexinger said he thought the plan didn’t go far enough. “Three months is simply too little,” he said.

The opposition, however, slammed the move. Christian Democrat Michael Donth called it an “expensive experiment”.

Rail operator Deutsche Bahn will offer the ticket for sale as early as Monday. Local public transport providers across the country are also preparing their ticket machines for the initiative. It will also be available in travel centres.

People with subscriptions to local transport will automatically benefit from the offer. 

In some regions, such as Stuttgart and Freiburg, the ticket is already available for purchase.

READ ALSO: How to get a hold of the €9 ticket in Berlin

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