German foreign minister urges end to migrant crisis recriminations

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for focus on how Europe can solve the refugee crisis.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for focus on how Europe can solve the refugee crisis.PHOTO: AFP

LUXEMBOURG (AFP) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged his EU partners Friday to stop squabbling and instead focus on how they can solve Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War II.

"We face difficult discussions and difficult decisions over several months," Steinmeier said as he arrived for an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

"We will not find (a solution) if we do not stop pointing the finger. Recriminations will not help to get the problem under control," he said.

He said that, compared with the tortuous efforts to reach the recent Greek debt accord, "the challenge which faces the EU now on migration and daily higher numbers of refugees, is several times bigger." "Only weeks ago we hoped to have some respite (after the Greek agreement) but that was an illusion." The deepening crisis and its mounting human cost has sparked sharp divisions within the 28-nation European Union, with Germany leading efforts to get the bloc to accept more refugees while newer eastern states balk at the prospect of compulsory quotas.

Hungary is especially in the spotlight as thousands of migrants fleeing conflict in the Middle East seek entry en route to Germany, sparking scenes of panic and anguish on its border with Serbia and in the capital Budapest where migrants have besieged trains.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said the situation was "dramatic," complaining that EU criticism was out of place for a country trying to live up to its EU commitments on managing the bloc's border with non-EU Serbia.

Hungary has built a razor-wire fence along the border with Serbia in an effort to control the migrant influx, running into EU criticism that walls are not the solution to the problem.

EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini, who will chair the two-day Luxembourg meeting, said the migrant crisis would be the major talking point but ministers should not forget other pressing issues - the stalled Middle East peace process, Ukraine and relations with Russia.

They would also discuss the recent accord with Iran on its nuclear programme and its implications for the region, Mogherini said.

The informal meetings of foreign ministers are held regularly for discussion purposes and do not take decisions on policy.