European leaders have torn into each other today as the migrant crisis escalated
Once again the cavernous divisions between different EU countries were laid bare for all to see, with Angela Merkel angrily defending Germany’s role in the chaos amid sniping from other member states.
In a day of unprecedented migrant violence thousands of refugees smashed down a border fence between Macedonia and Greece whilst inhabitants of the Calais Jungle camp set fires and hurled rocks at police as they attempted to avoid eviction.
Mrs Merkel was on the back foot as she voiced her “despair” at other European nations which fail to share her dream for open door immigration.
Many EU states now deeply resent Germany and blame its leader for unleashing millions of migrants on the continent after she rashly promised all Syrians asylum.
There were violent scenes across Europe today, with migrants smashing down a fence in Greece
Europe has been paralysed by division over how to deal with the migrant crisis
“But it is my damn duty to do everything I can so that Europe finds a collective way.“
That stance has put Germany at loggerheads with its close neighbour Austria, which has announced a cap on daily asylum applications in a desperate bid to stop the flow of migrants.
Today the country ratcheted up its attacks on Mrs Merkel to new heights, calling on her to fly migrants directly from Greece to Germany to alleviate the pressure on countries located between the two.
More than a million migrants flooded into Europe last year
There were violent scenes in Calais as French police tried to clear the Jungle camp
It is my damn duty to do everything I can so that Europe finds a collective way
His comments came after Greece hit out at the rest of Europe for abandoning it to cope with tens of thousands of migrants who are trapped at its northern border with Macedonia.
There were violent scenes today as thousands of refugees tried to smash down a border fence and force their way into the tiny country, which they want to travel through on their way to Germany.
Greece’s shipping minister Thodoris Dritsas said: “These people do not want to stay here.
“Even if we had a system in place for them to stay here permanently it wouldn’t work.”
Europe is bitterly divided over the issue of refugees
Parts of the Jungle camp burned as Europe endured its worst day of migrant chaos
Elsewhere Switzerland – which is not an EU member but is part of Schengen – is set to announce its own plans for limiting the flow of migrants crossing its borders.
The Swiss have been locked in negotiations with EU leaders over their desire to introduce a migrant cap, which goes against free movement rules.
But their parliament is now planning to override Brussels, introducing a “unilateral clause” which will bring the measure into law.
And Finland today warned that it is braced for asylum applications to increase sixfold, with the country’s president saying mass migration is a threat to European values.
The migrant crisis continued to unravel after Hungary announced its own plans to build a huge border fence on the frontier with Romania which will effectively seal off northern Europe from the Balkans.
No-nonsense Prime Minister Viktor Orban ignored pleas from Brussels to drop his radical plans to reduce migration, insisting he was acting as a defender of Christian Europe.
He said: “We will teach Brussels, the human traffickers and the migrants that Hungary is sovereign country.
“We cannot solve the demographic problems of the undeniably dwindling and ageing European population with the Muslim world without losing our lifestyle, security and ourselves. Those coming here have no intention of adapting to our lifestyle.”
Tomorrow Mrs Merkel will meet Tihomir Oreskovic, the Prime Minister of Hungary’s neighbour Croatia, to discuss how the flow of migrants can be reduced.
The tiny eastern European state has been under intense pressure, with thousands of refugees travelling through its lands on the way to Germany and Scandinavia.
Germany’s open door asylum policy has been opposed by even its closest ally France, whose faith in the free movement zone has been rocked by the November Paris terror attacks.
Meanwhile Britain is set for an in/out referendum on its membership of the 28-nation bloc, with migration set to be a key issue in the campaigning.
David Cameron spent more than two days in fraught negotiations with BRussels leaders over a deal he believes will help keep Britain in the EU.
But one diplomat summed up the mood in Europe when he said: “Everyone in the room and corridors was rather irritated that here we are dealing with some rather obscure issues of child benefits indexation, while we have real problems in Syria, member states closing borders, major issues we should really be on instead of this.”