French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has warned that the EU “could very well break up in a very short time” because of the ongoing migrant crisis that is overwhelming Europe.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the French politician suggested the EU had not been built to withstand “such powerful crises.”
Valls said that Europe was not capable of absorbing all the migrants fleeing what he called terrible wars in Iraq or Syria.
“Otherwise,” he said, “our societies will be totally destabilized.”
More than a million migrants arrived in Europe last year, mostly from the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. On Friday, at least 44 people drowned in the Aegean Sea as their boats sank off Greek islands.
In an interview with BBC’s Lyse Doucet, at the summit of global elites in the plush Davos ski resort, Valls said that Europe needed to take urgent action to control its external borders, and that the concept of Europe itself was now in grave danger.
“That’s why you need border guards and controls outside the European Union. Sometimes we had the feeling that borders did not exist. No, borders do exist so you have to protect them,” he said.
“If Europe is not capable of protecting its own borders, the very idea of Europe will be questioned,” he said.
Without offering any practical solution, Valls suggested that unless the conflict in the Middle East and North Africa can be settled, Europe’s migrant crisis will continue.
“We will have to live for decades or for many years with this menace or this threat and that’s why it’s a war,” he said. “There are many generations that will have to live with this and the crisis will have to be managed in north Africa and the Middle East.”
“In Africa, in the Middle East, in Asia we must eradicate, eliminate Daesh,” he said. “It is a total and global war that we are facing with terrorism.”
“The war we are conducting must also be total, global and ruthless,” he said.
Valls concluded with the dire prediction that “Europe could very well break up in a very short time. We have to be realistic.”
While avoiding direct criticism of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel for her welcoming message to migrants last year, he did offer a veiled rebuke.
“A message that says ‘Come, you will be welcome’ provokes major shifts” in population, Valls said, before commenting on the consequences of such a policy.
“We know clearly that after the Cologne incidents that with the continuous flow, not only to Germany but the countries of Northern Europe, Austria, the Balkans are confronted with this influx, that’s why we need to find practical solutions for our borders,” he said.
The Prime Minister was referring to the Cologne attacks on New Year’s Eve–mostly from migrants–that brought 800 complaints, three quarters of them relating to sexual crimes.
On Friday, at least 44 more people, including twenty children, died in three separate shipwrecks in the Aegean Sea when their boats sank off the Greek islands of Farmakonisi and Kalolimnos, the Turkish coastguard said.
Some 48 survivors reached shore but dozens of other migrants were reported missing.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome