DRESDEN, Germany — Germany's PEGIDA movement holds an anti-migrant rally on Monday a year on from its formation, highlighting a European backlash towards a massive influx that has heaped pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The demonstration comes a day after Swiss voters returned a historically strong result for a populist party known for its virulent campaigns against immigrants and Islam, and following a knife attack on a German mayoral candidate who championed refugee issues.
Monday's rally, due to start at 1600 GMT in PEGIDA's stronghold of Dresden, marks a contrast to efforts by Merkel who over the weekend made a crucial one-day trip to Turkey, where she hailed progress in helping Ankara deal with the migrant crisis and vowed to push forward its long-stalled EU membership bid.
The European Union wants Turkey to do more to tighten its border security and help contain the historic influx of Syrians and others escaping conflict, persecution and poverty.
In return, Ankara wants greater recognition for its role in hosting more than two million Syrian refugees, an increase in financial help and an acceleration of its stuttering drive for EU membership.
Merkel and the Turkish leadership indicated officials were making progress towards a deal on co-operation, although neither suggested a final agreement had been reached.
She said Berlin was prepared to support opening EU accession talks on economic and monetary affairs, and would also consider opening more of the 35 total so-called "policy chapters".
Speaking after her talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Merkel said the EU and Turkey were in agreement to work closer "on dynamising the accession process" towards Turkey's EU membership and also visa liberalisation for Turks wanting to travel to the EU's Schengen zone.
"The talks in that direction are very promising and will be continued," said Merkel.
Erdogan, who for months has bitterly criticised the EU's attitude towards Turkey, also called for more accession chapters to be opened, while Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu praised a "better approach" from the 28-nation bloc. — AFP