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Merkel's tough, humane stance

Merkels tough, humane stance

Migration could be a "make or break" issue for the European Union, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said ahead of a critical EU summit. She pressed the German Parliament to back a tough but humane asylum and migration policy for the European Union, warning that if Germany fails to support that, migration issues could define Europe's destiny. The crunch point comes at a time when Europe is already dealing with a lingering debt crisis, a rise in European populism, an escalating trade war with the United States, questions over the United States' commitment to NATO and faltering negotiations for Brexit. EU leaders are meeting in Brussels at the end of this week for a European Council summit that was supposed to focus on Brexit. Instead, with little progress on that front and high profile disagreements over the fate of migrants rescued at sea, migration has come to the fore. In a striking appeal to her own Parliament for European solidarity, Merkel unpicked some of the most contentious problems pitting members of the European Union against each other. "Those who come to Europe cannot choose which EU country they want to seek asylum in. If we do not get an agreement with the 28 EU member states, we will then need to consider a coalition of the willing on migrant policy. We need to find better solutions." Merkel urged against states acting unilaterally on migration, insisting that Europe needs to remain true to its multilateral values. It is an approach that can be seen as the polar opposite of US President Donald Trump's "America First" message. She argued that Germany's so-called open door migration policy in 2015, when more than a million migrants entered Germany, was an exceptional event. "Our decision to open doors to refugees in 2015 was not unilateral. We acted to help Austria and Hungary," she said. Merkel also pointed out that the number of asylum seekers coming to Europe had fallen dramatically and that it was now time for Europe to return to the migration policy it had before 2015. Germany would push to strengthen Europe's external borders as well as seek agreements with African nations on the return of rejected asylum seekers, she said. In an invitation letter sent to EU leaders, European Council President Donald Tusk called for Europe to focus on ensuring full control of its external borders or risk strengthening the hand of newly emerging populist political movements. Tusk also sounded a warning over Trump in the wake of the G7 summit in Canada, where deep divisions between the United States and its allies in Europe were laid bare – and ahead of a key NATO summit next month.

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