Europe must get a handle on immigration to combat a growing threat from rightwing populists, Hillary Clinton has said, calling on the continent’s leaders to send out a stronger signal showing they are “not going to be able to continue to provide refuge and support”.
In an interview with the Guardian, the former Democratic presidential candidate praised the generosity shown by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, but suggested immigration was inflaming voters and contributed to the election of Donald Trump and Britain’s vote to leave the EU.
“I think Europe needs to get a handle on migration because that is what lit the flame,” Clinton said, speaking as part of a series of interviews with senior centrist political figures about the rise of populists, particularly on the right, in Europe and the Americas.
“I admire the very generous and compassionate approaches that were taken particularly by leaders like Angela Merkel, but I think it is fair to say Europe has done its part, and must send a very clear message – ‘we are not going to be able to continue provide refuge and support’ – because if we don’t deal with the migration issue it will continue to roil the body politic.”
Clinton’s remarks are likely to prove controversial across Europe, which has struggled to form a unified position ever since more than 1 million migrants and refugees arrived in the EU in 2015.
While some countries who have borne the brunt, such as Germany, Italy and Greece, have argued for the burden to be shared more evenly, some, particularly in central and eastern Europe, have rejected demands to take in refugees.
Migration numbers have fallen sharply since 2015, while a series of initiatives have been tabled, from a 10,000-member European border and coastguard agency to an overhaul of EU asylum procedures.