Thursday

13th May 2021

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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. No EUobserver newsletter on Friday 14 May
  2. Germany stops Facebook gathering WhatsApp data
  3. Italy rebuts reports of EU deal with Libya
  4. MEPs demand EU states protect women's reproductive rights
  5. At least nine dead in Russia school shooting
  6. Bulgaria interim government appointed until July election
  7. German priests defy pope to bless same-sex couples
  8. New EU public prosecutor faults Slovenia

Feature

Frontex 'mislabelling minors as adults' on Greek islands

Lawyers in Greece accuse Frontex of incorrectly labeling minors as 'adults', a violation. Among them was 17-year old William, sent to the adult section of Moria, where he says he was abused. He was later able to prove his age.

EU commission calls Frontex its new 'Return Agency'

The EU's law enforcement agency Frontex has been helping member states return unwanted migrants. The European Commission now wants it to take a lead role, while hoping to boost the number of voluntary deportations.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050
  2. French police arrest Luxembourg former top spy
  3. Vaccine drives spur better-than-expected EU economic recovery
  4. Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office
  5. 'No place to hide' in Gaza, as fighting escalates
  6. EU chases 90m AstraZeneca vaccines in fresh legal battle
  7. Fidesz MEP oversees FOI appeals on disgraced Fidesz MEP
  8. Belgium outlines summer Covid relaxation plans

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us