German, Austrian chancellors stress need to secure EU border

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, welcomes the Chancellor of Austria, Sebastian Kurz, right, with military honors for a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

By DAVID RISING, Associated Press
BERLIN (AP) — The chancellors of Germany and Austria glossed over differences on migration Wednesday, seeking instead to focus on the need to secure the European Union’s external borders and fight the reasons why people flee their homes.
Germany was the largest European destination for refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war and other conflicts in 2015, which has put pressure on German Chancellor Merkel from the right of her conservative Union bloc.
Austria was one of the major transit routes for migrants and also saw a large number of new arrivals staying, raising concerns that helped bring new Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to office in a coalition with the nationalist, anti-migrant Freedom Party.
In his inaugural visit to Berlin since becoming chancellor last month, Kurz told reporters he remained “convinced that the solution for the migration question is in the orderly protection of exterior borders.”
He added that in his view Austria had already made a “disproportional contribution” in the refugee crisis, and that the European discussion over countries accepting quotas of migrants was taking up “too much room” at the expense of other solutions.
Merkel also stressed the need to secure external borders and reduce illegal migration, while emphasizing that Germany believes all European countries need to help with the migrants who get through.
“It can’t be, in my view, that there are countries who say we won’t take part in European solidarity,” she said. Merkel didn’t name specific countries, but several Eastern European nations have opposed taking in migrants.
The two chancellors suggested they were both taking a wait-and-see attitude on how political developments in their respective neighbors play out before passing judgment.
Merkel, who has been critical of the nationalist anti-migrant Alternative for Germany that won seats in parliament for the first time in September’s election, said it was too early to comment on Kurz’s decision to form a coalition with the Freedom Party in Austria.
“I want to make clear that we’ll judge the new government on its actions,” she said. Merkel added that what she’d heard from the new Austrian government regarding Europe politics convinced her they would work with Germany in “very close cooperation.”
Kurz, meantime, declined to comment on Merkel’s attempts to form a new coalition government with the center-left Social Democrats, saying he would refrain from “meddling in (German) politics.”
But, he said, Merkel’s “one of the most experienced government leaders” around, and that a “stable government in Germany is an advantage for both Austria and Europe.”

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