BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany and France will press the European Union to move faster and with more unity to deal with the worsening refugee crisis, amid complaints from Germany that it is shouldering too big a burden.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande will meet in Berlin on Monday to discuss how to speed up relief for thousands of migrants, many of whom risk dangerous sea voyages to reach southern Europe before making their way across the continent.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told a news conference on Thursday with his French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve that the EU must move more quickly as migrant numbers across the EU have surged in recent months.
“It’s unacceptable for European institutions to continue working at the pace they are currently operating at,” said de Maiziere, one day after he said Germany will receive a record 800,000 refugees and asylum-seekers this year.
De Maiziere said he and Cazeneuve agree Italy and Greece need considerable EU help to set up “waiting areas” for newly arrived refugees. Countries bordering the EU will also need EU support to counter smugglers as well address the causes of mass migration, he said.
“It’s obvious that Italy and Greece will need help and that will cost a relatively large amount of EU money,” said de Maiziere, a close ally of Merkel, who earlier on Thursday complained Germany has taken in 40 percent of the EU’s refugees.
“That is too many for the long run,” he told German TV.
De Maiziere told the news conference that the EU Commission needs to apply far more pressure on countries outside the EU, especially those seeking to join the EU in the Balkans, to take back refugees failing to qualify for asylum.
Merkel, who called it “extremely unsatisfying” that Germany is taking in a disproportionate numbers, said earlier this week that the EU urgently needs to come up with joint policies in the face of the worsening humanitarian crisis. She said the issue would become more pressing for Europe than the euro zone crisis.
“We need a common European asylum policy,” she said.
Britain said on Thursday it will contribute 10 million euros to increased French humanitarian assistance and a fast-track asylum process for thousands of migrants camped in Calais in the hope of crossing the Channel.
The measures were announced by British Home Secretary Theresa May and Bernard Cazeneuve during a joint visit to the northern French port city of Calais.
In Istanbul, the head of Turkey’s relief efforts Fuat Oktay told Reuters that Europe does not grasp the magnitude of Syria’s refugee crisis and should open its borders to shoulder a responsibility Turkey has been bearing alone.
Tens of thousands of migrants are arriving in Italy and Greece each week.
Germany has become a magnet for refugees fleeing war, violence and poverty in Asia, Africa and the Middle East as 218,221 people arrived seeking asylum in the first six months. That led Germany to raise its full-year forecast to 800,000 from the original January forecast of 300,000 and May’s 450,000.
Additional reporting by Thorsten Severin; writing by Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Toby Chopra