September 20, 2015 / 5:33 PM / 5 years ago

Merkel tells Europe: Germany can't cope with migrants alone

LEIPZIG, Germany (Reuters) - Europe must share responsibility for coping with mass migration, Germany’s chancellor said on Sunday, cautioning that her country could not shelter those who moved solely for economic reasons.

“Germany is willing to help. But it is not just a German challenge, but one for all of Europe,” Angela Merkel told a gathering of trade unionists. “Europe must act together and take on responsibility. Germany can’t shoulder this task alone.”

Striking a more sceptical tone on migration than in previous weeks, Merkel also warned that Germany could not shelter those who were moving for economic reasons rather than to flee war or persecution.

“We are a big country. We are a strong country. But to make out as if we alone can solve all the social problems of the world would not be realistic,” she told a gathering of the Verdi trade union.

“We want to offer shelter to those who need it but we have to say to those who come for other reasons, for economic reasons, that they do not have a perspective of staying,” she said.

The comments came as Hungary and Croatia traded threats as thousands of migrants poured over their borders, deepening the disarray in Europe over how to handle the crisis.

A proposal being argued over ahead of a meeting of European Union interior ministers on Tuesday would, if agreed, relocate 120,000 asylum seekers over the next two years around the whole bloc.

Bitterly-divided European leaders will then seek to find a credible response to the worst migration crisis affecting the continent since World War Two, at an emergency summit on Wednesday.

Reporting by Gernot Heller; writing by John O'Donnell; editing by Andrew Roche

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