Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Sunday Europe needs a common army to deal with the influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants, many fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East.
European countries will have to increase spending on defense, Schaeuble told Bild am Sonntag . “Ultimately our aim must be a joint European army. The funds that we spend on our 28 national armies could be used far more effectively together,” Schaeuble said.
Schaeuble sought to offer to compromise with eastern European countries that have voiced reluctance to accept migrants under EU quotas.
“Solidarity doesn’t start by insulting each other,” Schaeuble said. “Eastern European states will also have to take in refugees, but fewer than Germany.”
Schaeuble said the Middle East would not become stable without stronger European engagement.
Germany has gradually adopted a more assertive role in global missions. Earlier this month, lawmakers approved a mission in Syria, including sending six Tornado reconnaissance jets, a frigate to help protect a French aircraft carrier, refueling aircraft and 1,200 military personnel.
Schaeuble also criticised Greece over the way it is managing its role in Europe’s biggest migration crisis since World War Two.
Schaeuble, who has clashed repeatedly with Greek officials this year over economic policy, said Athens has for years ignored the rules that oblige migrants to file for asylum in the European Union country they arrive in first.
He said German courts had decided some time ago that refugees were not being treated humanely in Greece and could therefore not be sent back there.
The EU’s border agency Frontex has agreed to increase its presence in Greece at the end of the month, following concern over Athens’ commitment to controlling migration.
(with Reuters, AP)