Hollande, Merkel back Libya stabilization to avoid new migrant surge

French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for efforts to stabilize Libya on Thursday, warning that renewed chaos in the nation could spark a fresh wave of refugees risking their lives to reach Europe.

"The country could plunge into chaos, providing smugglers with the opportunity to place thousands of people in danger," Hollande said following a meeting with Merkel in the eastern French city of Metz.

The new government in Libya, the French leader said, will be assured support.

The meeting between Hollande and Merkel, part of the regular consultations between the French and German governments, focused on Europe's refugee crisis and ongoing efforts to fight terrorism.

Merkel once again stressed the need for securing the European Union's external border rather than imposing national border controls as a reaction to the influx of refugees fleeing wars in Africa and the Middle East.

Europe must "return as soon as possible to Schengen," said Hollande, referring the agreement between most of the EU's 28 member states guaranteeing visa-free travel across the Brussels-based bloc.

"Europe's response to the refugee crisis must be aimed at combating the causes why people flee (their homelands)," Merkel said.

"Europe's response must mean doing something for the peace process (in Syria)," Merkel told reporters.

The two leaders also agreed to the creation of a new Franco-German integration council to help meet the challenge of integrating asylum seekers into their nations.

The plan for the council was contained in a report drawn up by French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, premier of the German state of Saarland, which borders France.

The bilateral consultations between the two allies followed signs of deepening differences in national interests, particularly in connection with the influx of refugees into Europe.

Unlike Germany, France did not move to open its borders to refugees last year. Hollande, after initially stalling and opposing a Europe-wide quota system advocated by Merkel, said France will commit to taking 30,000 refugees over two years.

Despite their differences, Hollande has backed a common strategy between France and Germany allowing the EU to reach an agreement with Ankara on a scheme to send thousands of asylum seekers back to Turkey.

Last update: Thu, 07/04/2016 - 18:51

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