February 6, 2016 / 11:35 AM / 2 years ago

Merkel urges better protection of EU external borders

German Chancellor Angela Merkel adjusts her earpiece during a news conference with Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, February 5, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Saturday for better protection at the European Union’s external borders in order to maintain the passport-free Schengen zone.

Merkel, who opened her country’s borders to Syrians fleeing civil war last summer, is under increasing pressure to limit the influx of migrants after more than a million arrived in Germany last year.

A poll published this week showed popular support for Merkel had tumbled to a four-and-a-half-year low with more than 80 percent of Germans doubting her government had the refugee crisis under control.

“We need to protect our external borders because we want to keep Schengen,” Merkel said in her weekly podcast.

Failing to protect the EU’s external borders would jeopardize free movement of people which is the basis for the bloc’s wealth, Merkel added.

In particular, the protection of external borders is not turning out very well where the EU has sea borders, she said, referring indirectly to Greece, which has seen a huge influx of migrants and refugees coming in over water via Turkey, without mentioning the country by name.

The European Commission has warned Greece it could face more border controls with other states of the free-travel Schengen zone in May, if it does not fix “serious deficiencies” in its management of the area’s external frontier.

Merkel will travel to Ankara on Monday to meet with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to try and find a joint solution, including legal quotas for refugees in order to stop people trafficking.

Reporting by Caroline Copley Editing by Jeremy Gaunt

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