Merkel defends EU-Turkey refugee agreement
Speaking at a joint press conference with her Austrian counterpart Sebastian Kurz in Berlin, Merkel said protecting the EU’s external borders and providing support to countries hosting millions of refugees were important pillars in addressing the crisis.
“I was very surprised to see a lot of criticism directed at the EU-Turkey agreement when we concluded it,” she said, referring to criticism by several EU members, including Austria, two years ago.
Kurz, who was the Austrian foreign minister in 2016, had criticized the deal, arguing it would make EU dependent on Turkey.
Merkel added that the agreement proved successful in protecting the EU’s external borders.
“I don’t think we can leave it to human traffickers and smugglers to decide who can arrive in Europe and who cannot,” she added.
The German chancellor also called for more efforts in overcoming current problems in the resettlement of refugees from Turkey and other countries hosting millions of refugees from conflict regions.
“We must achieve more through resettlement, through cooperation with the UNHCR, and agreements with the respective countries,” she said.
Merkel has long been a key supporter of the EU-Turkey agreement clinched in March 2016, which aimed at discouraging the irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by establishing stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.