Angela Merkel, German chancellor, and François Hollande, French president, will make a joint address to the European Parliament Wednesday on the refugee crisis.

 

"This is a historic visit for historically difficult times," said Martin Schulz, the German SPD a centre-left president of the parliament. "The EU is facing immense challenges and requires strong commitment from its leaders."

A 1989 joint address by Helmut Kohl, then German chancellor, François Mitterrand, then French president, was at a time when Germany was still divided and the communist Soviet bloc collapsing.

Today's address to the European Parliament comes after ARD, the German public television, on Monday night fuelled anti-refugee protests in Germany by displaying an image of Angela Merkel wearing Islamic dress with the backdrop of the Reichstag surrounded with Islamic minarets.

The BBC reports that the Report from Berlin programme received heavy criticism from viewers, some of whom said the image resembled those used by anti-Islam movement Pegida.

ARD said that the graphic was "designed to capture people's attention".

"We welcome the many criticisms of the graphic in yesterday's Report from Berlin and we are sorry some disagreed with our portrayal of the chancellor or even misunderstood," the programme said in a statement published on Facebook.

The statement said the graphic was intended as satire and reflected "the achievements of our Western society — freedom of expression, press freedom and equality" — and emboldening right-wing groups in Germany is a way to achieve this noble objective!

Deutsche Welle, the external broadcaster, reports that the German cabinet will also meet Wednesday to contain rising public nervousness over the situation.

A poll released on Monday by research group Initiative Markt- und Sozialforschung found that 59% of Germans said Merkel's decision last month to allow Syrian refugees to enter Germany from Hungary unregistered was wrong.

Germany, France, refugees, Merkel

G7 Forum for Women 2015: Shukria Barakzai , Afghan politician, takes a selfie with Chancellor Merkel, Berlin, 18 Sept, 2015.

DW says this has coincided with political tensions in the chancellor's conservative-led coalition over her refusal to place an upper limit on the number of refugees. State leaders have also complained that resources to care for the new arrivals is inadequate.

Following two 30-minute addresses to the European Parliament scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. (1300 UTC/GMT), the leaders will face questioning from leaders of the main party blocs, including eurosceptics and right-wing parties hostile to refugees such as France's Front National.

DW also reports that police are investigating why up to 60 people took part in a brawl between Afghans and Albanians interned at a migrant centre in Hamburg on Tuesday. As night fell, one tent at the camp was on fire, though it remained unclear whether that had to do with the fighting.

The "Bild" newspaper claimed on Sunday that the German government is secretly expecting some 1.5m asylum seekers this year. The government denied it, even as political leaders hardened their refugee rhetoric.

DW says that at Monday's regular government press conference, government spokesman Georg Streiter denied all knowledge of a document the tabloid claimed was in its possession. Nor, he said, did he know of any member of the government who knew to what document the newspaper might have been referring. "No one knows this paper," Streiter told reporters. "For that reason I wouldn't put too much credence in it."

In May, the official estimate had been 450,000, in March, 300,000 and 800,000 last month.