EU can’t take any more refugees – French PM

© Philippe Wojazer
Battling terrorism in Europe and curbing the refugees flow from the wider Middle East have become intertwined in EU politics, with the French prime minister causing quite a stir on Tuesday after calling for the cessation of Europe’s migrant influx.

“We cannot take any more refugees in Europe. That’s impossible,” Manuel Valls told a crowd of journalists.

The statement made headlines ahead of Wednesday’s visit from German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who arrved in Paris to offer her country's support in crushing the terrorist threat across the EU.

The prime minister’s office however insisted that the original sentiment was lost in translation and Valls meant that Europe in general should demonstrate its ability to effectively control its borders.

“Europe has to say that it cannot take this many migrants anymore. That’s impossible,” the Prime Minister’s office said, offering what it says is the correct quote statement.

Vall’s original words raised concerns that France wants to stop the migrant intake or at least limit the number of refugees significantly.

The logic seemed clear as Valls, during the interview also called for the strengthening of EU border controls. Stopping people at the border, Valls said, would determine the fate of the European Union.

“If we don’t do that, the people will say: Enough of Europe,” Valls warned.

Valls referred to the findings of an investigation which concluded that at least two of the terrorists from the Friday 13 attacks in Paris infiltrated the EU under the guise of refugees.

Instead of letting thousands of migrants into the EU in an uncontrolled manner, Valls advocated Europe finding a solution to deal with the problem.

“Otherwise, Europe's ability to effectively control its borders is called into question,” he added.

While avoiding criticism of Berlin over Germany’s move in September to open borders and let in thousands of refugees stranded in Hungary, Valls still emphasized “it was not France that said: Come!”

At the same time, the Prime Minister said that, “Germany has made an honorable choice there,” but warned that Germany too faces a serious threat from Islamic State terrorists.

“For me it is clear: It is a war!” the PM said, a “new war” that will take a long time to complete – “maybe a few months, maybe a few years,” Valls stipulated.

But despite Valls’ strong stance on refugees, Merkel vowed on Wednesday to continue pursuing the open-door asylum policy, despite the unprecedented security risk evident after the attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead.

Speaking to Parliament before departing to Paris, she said: “We Europeans will show our free life is stronger than any terror.”

“The strongest response to terrorists is to carry on living our lives and our values as we have until now – self-confident and free, considerate and engaged,” Merkel told the politicians.

At the same time, the Chancellor promised to help France to combat terror.

“Germany stands at France’s side in the fight against terror,” Merkel said in an address to the lower house of parliament. “When additional engagements are needed, we are not going to exclude that possibility from the outset.”

Once in Paris, Merkel met with French President Francois Hollande, who expressed hope that Germany “can do even more in the fight against Daesh in Syria and Iraq.”

In response Merkel said she would see how Germany could take up “additional responsibilities” to assist in the fight against terrorism, adding that united Europe “will be stronger than the terror.”

“We want to fight together against terrorism. It’s our mission, our duty,” the German Chancellor added.

Earlier in the day, the German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced that up to 650 German soldiers would join a French-led peacekeeping mission in Mali.

Europe is experiencing the largest influx of refugees since World War II, taking in more than 770,000 people during the ten months of 2015 alone, according to official estimates. The majority of them come from the Middle East and North Africa – two regions that suffer from violence and political instability in the wake of a series of west-supported public uprisings in countries like Libya and Syria that led to the rise of extremist groups to power.

Police figures released in Germany on Monday revealed that the federal state already took in 180,000 refugees in November. The statistics also point that more than 1 million migrants might reach Germany by the end of the year. The rich northern-European country, which unlike some other EU members chose to publicly welcome the refugees, is one of the most-popular destinations. In September, France promised to accept 24,000 asylum-seekers over two years as part of a European plan to cope with an influx of migrants.