Sunday

24th Mar 2019

Austria criticises Germany on migrants, piles 'pressure' on EU

Austria has said Germany should stop sending mixed messages on migration at a meeting with Western Balkan states in Vienna on Wednesday (24 February).

"Germany has to decide what signals Germany wants to send," Austrian interior minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told press after talks with her counterparts from Western Balkan countries, where most migrants cross on their way from Greece to Germany.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"Currently they [Germany] are sending the following signals: that they are allowing Greece to agree to the open-door policy, and on the other hand they are demanding that Austria stop all those who want to travel to Germany," she said, according to the Reuters news agency.

"One must choose one of those strategies," she said.

“We have to reduce the influx now. This is a question of survival for the EU,” she added.

"There is still no European solution in sight. For that reason it is necessary for us to take national measures," Austrian foreign minister Sebastian Kurz said earlier in the day.

Neither Germany, which accepted over 1 million migrants last year, nor Greece, their main entry point into Europe, were invited to the meeting.

The Vienna talks were criticised by both countries.

But leaders in the states on the Balkan migration route called for the need to step up border restrictions in the absence of a common European solution.

Mikl-Leitner noted that part of the reason for the Vienna event was also to generate “pressure” for a joint European approach.

“A partnership with Balkan countries is not only in the interest of these countries but also of the EU. We want to generate pressure and urgency," she was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

Foreign and interior ministers from Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia were present in Vienna.

In their joint statement, the countries said that migration on the Western Balkan route needed to be reduced substantially because they were overwhelmed.

In a nod to international law, they highlighted the need to protect those who are in genuine need of asylum.

But they said that refugees should be settled closest to their home countries and should not be allowed to chose their destination within Europe.

They also said that accommodating migrants should be a shared European burden.

They mentioned as an example that Slovakia is helping Austria by accommodating 500 asylum seekers.

The initiative comes despite the fact Slovakia has filed a court challenge against a mandatory EU plan to relocate 120,000 people across Europe.

In a dig at Greece, the Vienna statement also stressed the need to "get back to a situation where all members of the Schengen area apply fully the Schengen Borders Code and refuse entry at external borders to third country nationals who do not satisfy the entry conditions or who have not made an asylum application despite having had the opportunity".

The Schengen area is the EU’s passport-free travel zone.

Vienna signatories also urged for more communication efforts in the home countries of economic migrants to dissuade them from leaving.

The Vienna event came shortly before EU justice and home affairs ministers meet in Brussels on Thursday.

The meeting will also be preceded by a ministerial breakfast between Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece.

Their discussion will feed into the meeting of the 28 ministers later in the day.

Austria has been criticised for breaking ranks with common EU policies by imposing a unilateral cap on asylum applications.

But some EU diplomats are quietly sympathetic to its plight.

"What Austria is doing is common sense, the so far agreed European solutions don't work. Patience and capacity has run out," an EU source said.

EU upset by Austria's asylum 'provocation'

The decision to cap the number of asylum seekers and wave them on to neighbouring countries is a blow to Germany and has been deemed unlawful by the EU Commission.

Greek PM threatens to block EU decisions

Alexis Tsipras threatens to block EU decisions if Greece is left to deal with the migration crisis alone, warning that he will not let Greece be turned into a "warehouse of souls".

Merkel stands her ground on migration

The German chancellor Sunday ruled out closing German borders. She also vowed to help Greece and to fight for a European solution to the refugee crisis.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us