By MELISSA EDDY, RICK LYMAN and ALISON SMALESEPT. 13, 2015
BERLIN — With record numbers of migrants pouring across the Hungarian border and rushing west, Germany, the country that had been the most welcoming in Europe, suddenly ordered temporary border restrictions on Sunday that cut off rail travel from Austria and instituted spot checks on cars.
It took the action just one day before European ministers were scheduled to meet in Brussels to discuss a plan to disperse tens of thousands of refugees across Europe, with many governments, particularly in Eastern Europe, bristling at being forced to accept more migrants than they wish to take.
The crisis is the latest, and perhaps thorniest, test of Europe’s willingness to work together to solve big problems amid rising populist, nationalist and Euro-skeptic movements across the continent.
The move by the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel was seen as a strong sign — if not an outright message — to other European Union members that Germany was growing weary of shouldering so much of the burden for Europe’s largest humanitarian crisis in decades without more help and cooperation from other nations.
For others, though, the concern was that if even the richest and most powerful nation in the 28-member union was showing signs of hitting its limit, how would Europe be able to find a path through this seemingly ceaseless refugee emergency?
When word of the new restrictions made the rounds at the main station in Salzburg, Austria, the last major stop on the rail journey to Germany, hundreds of migrants were taken off the blocked trains and to a garage nearby, the German Press Agency said.
A simple sign was posted on the station’s information boards: “No railway service by order of German authorities due to the German migrant crisis.”
Interior Minister Thomas de Mazière said that it was “desperately necessary” for Germany to limit the number of people coming into the country and “reinstate an orderly entry process” after two weeks that left the country straining to accommodate the new arrivals.