Europe is making its “first progress” in tackling the influx of refugees, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told Germany's Bild daily. Juncker also praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her liberal refugee policy despite facing immense criticism.
In an interview published Wednesday by Bild, Juncker said that there has been a fall in the number of refugees entering Greece from Turkey. His comments come just a day before world leaders are set to meet at a closely watched summit in Brussels on the refugee crisis and on a reform deal to keep Britain in the 28-member bloc.
"We are at last seeing some first progress," he told Bild, according to Reuters. But it will take time for "all measures we have agreed in the past weeks and months in Europe to have an effect.”
Juncker reportedly said that a head of the government is responsible for standing by the policies even under pressure and suggested that Merkel would prove all her critics wrong.
"The European migration policies she and I are pursuing will prevail. It is political strength to say we can do it. Anything else is capitulation to the populists," Juncker reportedly said.
Merkel, who has been demanding a fair distribution of refugees among all EU members, has faced several criticisms for her policies. Merkel also supports a plan under which transit country Turkey would seal its borders and then fly refugees to Europe where they would be offered asylum under an EU quota system.
Last month, over 40 members of Parliament from Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party wrote to her, urging greater control over the country’s borders and better checks at entry points.
Although Merkel said that Germany can handle the 1.1 million refugees who arrived in 2015, and potentially more expected in 2016, nearly 40 percent of Germans believe that she should harden her stance on the refugee policy, according to January’s Insa survey for Focus magazine.
However, despite Merkel receiving criticism from all sides, Juncker showed support by even comparing her determination to former German chancellor Helmut Kohl who pushed through German reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
"I am thinking above all of the long-sighted reunification policy of Helmut Kohl. History has proved him right and it will prove Angela Merkel right," Juncker reportedly said.