European countries are stretched to their limits in the refugee crisis and cannot take in any more new arrivals, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls was quoted as saying in a German newspaper on Wednesday.
Europe is grappling with its worst refugee crisis since World War Two. Germany so far has taken in the bulk of some 1 million people expected to arrive this year.
“We cannot accommodate any more refugees in Europe, that’s not possible,” Valls told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, adding that tighter control of Europe’s external borders would determine the fate of the European Union.
“If we don’t do that, the people will say: Enough of Europe,” Valls warned.
The comments were published only hours before German Chancellor Angela Merkel was scheduled to meet French President Francois Hollande in Paris.
Merkel was initially celebrated at home and abroad for her welcoming approach to the refugees, many of whom are fleeing conflict in the Middle East. But as the flow has continued the chancellor has come under increasing criticism.
Some conservatives say Merkel’s decision to open up Germany’s borders to Syrian refugees in September has spurred more migrants to come.
The refugee debate has become more politically charged after the deadly attacks in Paris that stoked fears Islamic State militants could exploit the migrant crisis to send extremists to Europe.
Valls avoided criticising Merkel directly for having suspended European asylum rules to allow in Syrian refugees stranded in Hungary. “Germany has made an honourable choice there,” he said.
But he signalled that Paris was taken by surprise by Merkel’s decision: “It was not France that said: Come!”
French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron and his German counterpart, Sigmar Gabriel, have proposed setting up a 10 billion euro ($10.7 billion) fund to pay for tighter security, external border controls and caring for refugees.
The United Nations on Tuesday condemned new restrictions on refugees that have left around 1,000 migrants stuck at the main border crossing into Macedonia from Greece.