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Germany to Hungary: 'This is not acceptable'
00:35 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Hungarian police used strong-arm tactics on Wednesday against refugees attempting to enter the EU from Serbia

Use of water cannon and tear gas is "against the European rules," says German defense minister

The refugees have a right to be treated decently, minister tells CNN

CNN  — 

Hungary’s treatment of refugees at its border, including the use of tear gas and water cannons, “is not acceptable,” Germany’s defense minister told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.

“This is against the European rules,” Ursula von der Leyen said in an exclusive interview.

The refugees have a right to be treated decently, she said. “This is something where we really have a lot to discuss in Europe.”

Riot police used strong-arm tactics on Wednesday against refugees attempting to enter the European Union from Serbia. Hungary’s right-wing government has sealed that border, forcing refugees to remain in Serbia or seek another route into Europe, through Croatia.

Many of them are headed for Germany and Sweden, which because of their asylum laws and opportunities are seen as the most favorable destinations. Germany is preparing to accept 1 million refugees.

“Not everybody is welcome,” von der Leyen said. “But those who are war refugees and fleeing civil war and terror, and those who need political asylum – it is our principle that they have to get shelter, and … to get asylum here in Germany.”

Nonetheless, Germany this week introduced temporary border controls where its territory meets Austria. Several other European countries quickly followed suit.

Von der Leyen denied that this constituted closing down the border.

“The numbers are humongous. And it’s an enormous national challenge we are facing.”

“We have to get back into an order so that we can manage the task really to distribute them to the different federal states and to really put them in the place where they need to be.”

Despite some very vocal opposition to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policies – especially in conservative Bavaria – the defense minister said the “overwhelming majority” of the German population is in favor of the welcoming policy.

“There will be frustration and things like that. But the goal is really to stick to our principles.”

The German military, she said, has provided 20,000 beds for refugees in its barracks, and is prepared to offer 45,000 more.

As the refugee crisis has escalated, many have once again turned their attention to the devastating war in Syria, from which so many have fled.

In what could be the most significant development in that war in months, the American military confirmed this week that Russia is building a forward operating base in Syria, to bolster its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Von der Leyen said that while “Russia is welcome” in the “alliance against terror,” it must join the “common consensus” among other nations of whom to support – “and whom we are not to support” – a seeming allusion to al-Assad.

“If we really want to fight ISIS, we need the regional surrounding powers to really stick to that common goal and not to push forward the war in Syria from different sides by only playing their own interests.”