Time is running out to save Europe's free movement of people, warns European Council president Donald Tusk

Chris Papadopoullos
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Tusk issued the stark warning at an informal meeting of heads of state in Malta (Source: Getty)

The president of the European Council warned today that “time is running out” for Europe’s open border system.

The Schengen area, which allows people to move across countries without passports, was breaking down due to countries’ individual efforts to block migrants and a lack of a coordinated response, Tusk said.

“Every week decisions are taken in Europe, which testify to how grave the situation is: reintroduction of border controls, or “technical barriers” at the borders. This is a clear demonstration that we need to regain the control of our external border,” Tusk said.

“The European Union will stick to its international obligations in terms of asylum rights, but it must be clear that without registration there will be no rights. If a migrant does not cooperate, there must be consequences. It is also clear that asylum seekers cannot decide where they will be granted asylum within the European Union.”

Tusk said he would discuss the issue further with Jean Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, Turkish President Recep Erdogan and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on the sidelines of a G20 summit on Monday.

“We are ready to hold a special summit of the 28 Member States with Turkey as soon as possible,” Tusk said.

“The clock is ticking. We are under pressure. We need to act fast.”

German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble last night raised tensions within the German government after saying that Angela Merkel’s “open door” approach to the crisis would send an avalanche of refugees Germany’s way.

“You can trigger avalanches when a rather careless skier goes on to the slope ... and moves a bit of snow,” he said. “I don’t know whether we are already at the stage where the avalanche has reached the valley or whether we are on the first third of the slope [and there is more to come].”

Schauble’s comments come just days after a row erupted with Germany’s leading coalition over whether refugees should automatically have their families let into the country.