Merkel Warns of Conflict in Balkans If Germany Closes Borders

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been forced to defend her refugee policy once again, arguing that the closure of borders within Europe could lead to a military conflict in the Balkans.

Merkel made the comments during a speech at a party event in Darmstadt in southern Germany on Monday evening, during which she also defended her decision to implement transit zones that will mean asylum applications are processed on the border before refugees are allowed into Germany.

Merkel said that if the country closed its border with Austria, it could spark a domino effect leading to other countries following suit, leading to "fault lines" building up across Europe. "I don't want to it to happen that...military conflicts are once again necessary", Merkel said, adding that situations can escalate rapidly into violence and warning of rising tensions in the Balkan states.

Merkel also said that, as the largest state in the EU, it was Germany's responsibility to find a solution to the refugee crisis. "I am pretty sure we can achieve that," she said.

On Sunday, Merkel struck a deal with the Bavarian premier and conservative ally Horst Seehofer over transit zones, which should make it easier for German officials to filter economic migrants from those in genuine need of protection. "Germany will help all people who are looking for protection from wars and persecution," she said. "The creation of transit zones in order to make quick decisions is therefore the right way."

However, Merkel's vice chancellor and leader of Social Democrats (SPD) Sigmar Gabriel, dismissed the idea of transit zones, deepening the rift between Merkel's coalition. Gabriel has argued that only a very few new arrivals come from the Balkan countries, and that the debate over the new transit zones is therefore "totally phoney". Merkel will try to reach an agreement with the SPD on Thursday.

Germany now expects between 800,000 and one million asylum seekers this year, twice as many as in any previous year.