The very future of the European Union is being put in "grave danger" because of the massive influx of migrants, Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, warned on Friday.
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Valls said that Europe – which last year saw more than a million migrants arrive – could not take so many refugees from the "terrible wars" in Iraq or Syria. Unless the flow could be stemmed, he said, "our societies will be totally destabilised."
Mr Valls, speaking from the World Economic Forum in Davos, also said that France would seek to keep its current state of emergency until a "total and global war" against so-called Islamic State (IS) was over.
He said Europe must must tighten its external borders and make it clear that it would not accept all of the refugees seeking to enter the continent. If not, Mr Valls feared the Schengen Agreement allowing unfettered travel across border in continental Europe would fail.
More than that, though, he said, "It's Europe that could die, not the Schengen area. If Europe can't protect its own borders, it's the very idea of Europe that could be thrown into doubt.
"It could disappear, of course – the European project, not Europe itself, not our values, but the concept we have of Europe, that the founding fathers had of Europe.
"Yes, that is in very grave danger. That's why you need border guards, border controls on the external borders of the European Union."
While he did not directly criticise German Chancellor Angela Merkel for saying last year that Germany would welcome refugees, he made it clear that he believed she had been wrong to say it and that it had encouraged the mass migration.
"The main message we must send now with the greatest of firmness is to say that we will not take in all the refugees in Europe. A message that says 'Come, you will be welcome' provokes major shifts of population," said Mr Valls.
"If you say anything in Europe today, a few seconds later it is on the smartphones of people in refugee camps near Libya. Angela Merkel showed courage. She explained why she wanted to welcome the refugees in the name of values, and also because Germany needs these refugees.
"But we know clearly that after the Cologne incidents that with the continuous flow, not only to Germany but other countries of Northern Europe, Austria and the Balkans are confronted with this influx, that's why we need to find practical solutions for our borders."
Mr Valls said that, in addition to tighter border controls, more reception centres for migrants were needed in Greece and Italy, and the EU should offer assistance to refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
"We need border controls at the external borders of the European Union, because Europe has forgotten that it needs borders," he added. "Sometimes we had the idea that borders did not exist. But, no, borders do exist. We must protect our borders. If they are not protected, then we will reimpose – as we have done – internal European border controls, and then the Schengen area is thrown into doubt.
"If we start to question the free movement of people, then one of the great European projects is also thrown into doubt."
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