V4 Report: Austria plans to put immigration and borders at heart of EU presidency. Kurz has surrounded himself with “top-shelf” advisors and partners.
– Austria plans to use its upcoming presidency of the European Union this year to shift the bloc’s focus from resettling refugees within the EU towards keeping further waves of migrants outside the bloc’s external borders, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Friday.
“Our aim is very clear – that in Europe there should not only be a dispute over redistribution but also, at last, a shift of focus towards securing external borders,” Kurz told a news conference outlining Austria’s priorities for the presidency.
“Protection (of borders) alone will not solve the migration question but the decisive question is what happens to people after their rescue – are they brought to central Europe or are they taken back to the countries of origin or other safe regions where they can be provided for?” Kurz said.
Kurz has said there is no point arguing over the current system of quotas because CEE states refuse to accept them. He has argued in favour of a system in which migrants rescued in the Mediterranean are returned to Africa rather than brought to Europe, and has pledged to stop illegal immigration altogether.
Under its previous government, Austria teamed up with the Visegrad countries and Serbia and Macedonia to stop refugee flows via the so-called Western Balkans route, an initiative outside the EU framework.
– Austria will take over the rotating six-month presidency of the EU from Bulgaria in July. Bulgaria’s coalition government consists of the centre-right GERB party of PM Boyko Borissov and the United Patriots, three rightist forces of which at least one, Ataka, can be described as far-right.
Borissov has recently said he wanted Bulgaria and Austria to have a “joint presidency”.
** Clearly the momentum has shifted in Europe as Visegrad continues to find new allies in their battle with Brussels over migration. Austria was a “game-changer”. More states will follow.