Germany’s Finance Minister has proposed a pan-European tax on petrol and diesel to pay for the continent’s border security if EU states cannot find enough money.
Speaking in an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung, Wolfgang Schäuble said securing the external borders of the Schengen free movement zone was a top priority, and attempts to protect it “must not fail due to a limitation of funds”.
“Why shouldn’t we deal with this at a European level, if the task is so urgent?” he added. “We need to secure the Schengen external borders now.”
Even if it cannot implement the tax on a continent-wide bases, Germany is prepared to join a “coalition of the willing” to impose it in as many countries as possible, Mr Schäuble said.
He also warned that any failure to reach an agreement of securing Europe’s borders could result in Germany closing its own, a move that could prove fatal to the whole Schengen agreement.
The intervention by Mr Schäuble, who is widely seen as the second most influential person in the German government after Chancellor Angela Merkel, comes as Germany deals with the aftermath of the Cologne sex attacks.
An opinion poll released by broadcaster ZDF on Friday found that 60 per cent of Germans now think the country cannot handle the migrant influx, while 70 per cent think an open border policy will result in more crime.
The number of complaints filed in the wake of the attacks has also risen to over 650, with 331 involving sexual harassment and several reports of rape. Authorities have so far identified 19 suspects by name, 10 of whom were asylum seekers and the rest were illegal immigrants.
Only 39 per cent of the German public now approve of Angela Merkel’s immigration policies, representing a significant decrease in support compared to just a month ago.