"Europe must stand together"
To address the refugee crisis, we must address "many points and all levels simultaneously" said Chancellor Angela Merkel in a government statement before the EU’s leaders met in Brussels.
Joint actions are called for in foreign and development policy, both at national level – with local authorities, federal states and the federal government – and at European and global level.
Federal and state governments acting swiftly
The Asylum Procedures Acceleration Act debated today in the German Bundestag is an example of the swift, joint action taken by the federal and state governments within Germany to address the situation, which calls for a huge national effort, she said.
One elementary part of the legislative package is "that those who come to us driven by economic hardship, who invoke our fundamental right to asylum without justification, must leave our country more quickly than has hitherto been the case, to ensure that those who are genuinely fleeing war and persecution can be assisted better and more efficiently by all of us."
Measures have been agreed to enable swifter and better integration "on the basis of our constitution, on the basis of our values, and on the basis of our laws".
Launching a political process in Syria
At international level, a priority must be to stabilise the situation in Syria, and in the long term to achieve peace. A "process of political dialogue which also embraces Russia and other international actors" will be needed.
The Chancellor spoke of the "enormous stamina" that will be needed here. Even if efforts to bring peace have so far had no success, she said, capitulation is not an option.
Support for Syria’s neighbours
Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, Syria’s neighbours, which have taken in millions of Syrian refugees, deserve huge recognition and support. This is why at European level, a significant increase in funding has been pledged – for various programmes including the World Food Programme and the EU’s Madad Fund (EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis).
Germany has shouldered a large part of this, and raised its own contribution by 100 million euros. "If it becomes apparent that these pledges are not sufficient to increase food supplies again, especially in view of the approaching winter, we will mobilise additional funds," pledged the Chancellor.
Cooperating with Turkey
Turkey is bearing the lion’s share of the refugee flows. That is why it is important to work with Turkey. Germany expressly supports the action plan of the European Commission, and aims to support this process through the recently launched German-Turkish migration dialogue. The Chancellor’s visit to Istanbul on Sunday is part of this.
More personnel to control the EU’s external borders
The Chancellor stressed that the control of the EU’s external borders, which is of elementary importance for the Dublin Regulation, is not working as it should. Control must "become more of a joint European responsibility", she said. It must become more effective and more personnel must be allocated.
The Commission has called for up to 1,100 people. To date few member states have offered to deploy personnel. Germany is one of them. She expects that the European Council meeting will ensure that all member states do their bit.
Permanent, mandatory distribution mechanism
The so-called hotspots, which are to see staffing levels increased, are the "starting point for a fair distribution within Europe", which has already been decided for 160,000 refugees.
But it is not only 160,000 refugees that must be distributed. Angela Merkel declared her conviction "that we need a permanent, mandatory distribution mechanism in Europe".
Developing economic and monetary union
Another topic of today’s European Council meeting will be the further development of the economic and monetary union. The Chancellor said that efforts must not let up to remedy the errors made when the economic and monetary union was first founded. The common European currency demonstrates, like no other decision taken within the European unification process, how Europe can advance its own interests and values worldwide.
Working to implement the Minsk agreements
With respect to the situation in Ukraine she said that efforts will continue to implement the Minsk agreement with France and in close consultation with European and transatlantic partners. "Our goal is, and will remain, the restoration of free self-determination of Ukraine as regards its territorial integrity."
Finding a viable compromise with the United Kingdom
With regard to the reform wishes of the United Kingdom, Angela Merkel declared her conviction that a viable compromise will be found. Some principles, however, like freedom of movement and non-discrimination are non-negotiable. She would like to see the UK as an "active partner within a strong European Union", she said.
The heads of state or government of the 28 EU member states meet at least twice every six months as the European Council in Brussels. The meetings are chaired by the European Council President. The President of the European Commission also attends. The European Council lays down the general political objectives and priorities of the EU. It is not a legislative body of the EU. Unless otherwise provided for, the decisions of the European Council are made by consensus.