Schulz warned against a re-run of the refugee crisis, urged Merkel to take action

A file picture dated 23 October 2014 shows German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz (L) talk prior to the start of the EU Summit at the EU Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. Schulz on 29 January 2017 was officially nominated by the Social Democrats (SPD) party chair as SPD's as top candidate to take on Chancellor Merkel in German general elections in September 2017. He is scheduled to be elected as party chairman during a extraordinary party confention in March. [EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET]

Germany needs to take action now to prevent a re-run of 2015, when some 890,000 migrants arrived in the country, said former European Parliament president and challenger of Chancellor Angela Merkel, for a September election in an interview on Sunday (23 July).

In September 2015, Merkel threw open Germany’s borders to thousands of migrants to avoid a humanitarian disaster – a move that later hit her popularity and boosted the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD), though her conservatives have since recovered and support for the AfD has dropped.

Schulz, whose Social Democrats (SPD) are lagging far behind Merkel in the polls ahead of a Sept. 24 election, warned against a repeat scenario after more than 93,000 mainly sub-Saharan African and Bangladeshi migrants have arrived by boat in southern Italy so far in 2017, up 17 percent on the same period last year.

SPD’s Schulz accuses Merkel of lacking clear plan

German Socialist Party leader Martin Schulz set out plans to boost investment and enhance European unity, accusing Chancellor Angela Merkel of making empty promises.

“The numbers in Italy are worrying – thousands per day,” he said in an interview in the western German city of Aachen.

“If we don’t want a repeat of what we experienced in 2015 we need to take action now as the Italians are reaching their limit in terms of what they can do.”

Other European Union countries need to help Italy, such as by taking in refugees, he added.

Schulz said he had spoken to European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Sunday about what financial or logistical help Brussels might be able to offer countries prepared to take in refugees and said he would speak to both the Italian government and the Commission about this during the week.

In an interview with the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, Schulz said the situation was “highly explosive” and suggested he wanted to turn it into an election campaign issue, saying: “Those who play for time and try to ignore the topic until the election are acting in a very cynical way.”

Migrant arrivals in Germany have been far lower this year than in the previous two years, with data from the Interior Ministry showing the number of new arrivals seeking asylum fell to 90,389 in the first half of 2017, about half as many as in the year-earlier period.

Last year, some 280,000 migrants arrived in Germany – a sharp drop compared with 2015 – and the refugee issue has not yet played a major role in the election campaign.

The latest Emnid poll showed Merkel’s conservatives on 38 percent and the SPD on 25 percent.

Horst Seehofer, leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU) – the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) – told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper the situation was calm now but added: “We all know that the wave of migrants will continue.”

The CSU, which takes a tougher tone on migrants than Merkel’s CDU, has long called for an upper limit on the numbers arriving and Seehofer on Sunday repeated his call for a cap of 200,000 per year. Merkel has rejected a cap.

Battling to save campaign, Schulz hits out at 'arrogant' Merkel

Social Democrat chief Martin Schulz lashed out yesterday (25 June) at Chancellor Angela Merkel, accusing her of “arrogance” as he sought to reverse his party’s plunging popularity three months before general elections.

Bild am Sonntag said Schulz would travel to Italy on Thursday to meet Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. 

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe

Want to know what's going on in the EU Capitals daily? Subscribe now to our new 9am newsletter.