24 октября 2015 13:29

Juncker backs Merkel on refugees ahead of EU mini-summit


European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker backed Angela Merkel's welcoming stance towards migrants on Friday ahead of a mini-summit of leaders this weekend aimed at tackling record arrivals, AFP reports.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker backed Angela Merkel's welcoming stance towards migrants on Friday ahead of a mini-summit of leaders this weekend aimed at tackling record arrivals, AFP reports.

Juncker's comments came as Slovenia warned it may build Europe's latest border fence to stem the migration crisis unless it gets more help from the summit.

Hostility towards migrants streaming into Europe is mounting, with Germany on Thursday foiling an extremist plot to torch migrant shelters and Swedish police saying a sword attack on a school with many immigrant pupils was motivated by racism.

Most of the migrants -- a flow of more than 670,000 coming into Europe this year, mainly fleeing violence in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan -- want to get to Germany, the EU's economic powerhouse.

Chancellor Merkel's open-door policy faces a backlash as Germany braces for up to a million asylum requests this year.

But Juncker heaped praise on her, saying "I appreciate very much that the chancellor does not change course because of opinion polls".

"It is not a question of short-term popularity but the very substance of what politics is about," Juncker, who is hosting Sunday's mini-summit on migration, was quoted as telling the Funke-Mediengruppe press group.

  Growing hostility 

In a sign of the growing stress on Germany, police in the southern town of Bamberg arrested 13 members of a far-right movement suspected of planning arson attacks on two homes for asylum seekers, prosecutors said Thursday.

Sweden is the EU's other top destination for asylum seekers, and police there said a sword-wielding man who killed two people at a school in the southwestern town of Trollhattan was a "racially motivated" hate crime.

That conclusion was based on the 21-year-old assailant's "attire, his behaviour at the scene of the crimes". He was named in the media as Anton Lundin-Pettersson.

Sunday's summit in Brussels will gather the leaders of Macedonia and Serbia along with the leaders of eight of the 28 EU countries: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania and Slovenia.

"The past weeks have shown that there is no national solution to the problem," Juncker's spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters.

"Only a European collective cross-border approach based on cooperation can succeed."

According to media reports in Germany, Juncker has drafted 16 proposals for Sunday's talks.

They include an undertaking that no country will let migrants through to an adjoining state without first getting the neighbour's agreement to do so.

He is also floating proposals to speed up expulsion of migrants who have been denied asylum, and to withdraw the right of asylum to people who do not register their request in the first EU state where they landed, according to the websites of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and der Spiegel.

With thousands more people arriving from Croatia on Friday, Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar said he hoped Sunday's EU meeting would bring solutions but did not rule out a barrier along the 670-kilometre (415-mile) frontier with Croatia.

"We are considering that option too but at this moment... we are still looking for a European option," Cerar told state TV late Thursday.

Ljubljana has asked Brussels for 140 million euros ($155 million, £100 million), in addition to police backup and logistical support. 

"If on Sunday we do not get sufficient (grounds for hope), if we see there is no will for collaboration, then all possibilities will are available, seeing as we will have been left alone," Cerar said.

More than 47,500 people have entered the small Alpine nation, which has a population of just two million, since October 17 when Budapest shut its frontier with Croatia, barely a month after also closing its Serbian border.

Meanwhile, a German law to tighten up asylum rules was published in the country's official gazette on Friday, enabling it to take effect on Saturday, a week earlier than expected.

In addition to accelerating the expulsion of people deemed to be economic migrants, the law will restrict the right of political asylum to exceptional cases for nationals from Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo.

Furthermore the multiple cash allowances available to asylum seekers while their cases are being processed will be replaced by benefits in kind, in a bid to make Germany a less attractive destination for migrants.

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