Ahead of a meeting between the interior ministers of Austria, Italy, and Germany over how to handle the migration matter, Germany’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer has embarked on a journey to Vienna to get the conversation going with the Austrians.
Seehofer has just come out of a batch of meetings with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel over migration, nearly costing her the unity of the governing coalition and her position. Merkel had also just emerged from a series of meetings with EU leaders over the same matter, in hopes of achieving both the security of her coalition as well as establishing some sort of ‘European solution’.
That ‘European solution’ was to make accepting migrants a voluntary thing for EU members, abolishing a quota system that had been in place to the objection of various member states, and the establishing of reception centers to better handle the flow of incoming migrants. To deal with secondary migration, the prospect of deferring migrants back to their first point of entry was positioned as a way of cutting down on the burden of some countries.
For countries that wish to no longer accommodate migrants, this is great news, now they no longer have to take in any more migrants, and they can ship out all the migrants that initially filed for asylum back to that location, meaning that they can deport them and thus make them someone else’s problem. This is Austria’s chief concern as they not only want to close down the mediterranean route, therefore stopping the flow of incoming migrants, but they also don’t want to take in migrants that Germany refuses.
Germany and Austria both agree that the Mediterranean migrant route needs to be closed off, but the matter of what to do with the migrants that they don’t want remains a problem, and that situation is where Germany and Austria are setting the framework for the upcoming meeting on how to implement these policies.
Deutsche Welle reports:
Horst Seehofer and Austria’s Sebastian Kurz want to close a key route for immigrants and refugees arriving from the Mediterranean. Representatives from Austria, Germany and Italy will discuss the plan next week.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer traveled to Austria on Thursday to discuss a common approach to dealing with an issue that has been vexing EU nations for the past three years: migration.
Although it was clear from the beginning that no final deal would be struck in Vienna, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his interior minister, Herbert Kickl, agreed that Austria could not be held responsible for immigrants and refugees denied entry to Germany after traveling to the alpine country via Greece or Italy.
Seehofer made that clear, declaring: “Neither now, nor in the future will we make Austria responsible for Italy and Greece’s obligations. That was not my intention today, nor will it be in the future.”
The men also stated their desire to close the so-called southern route as a means of limiting influx to northern Europe from the Mediterranean.
Go back to where you came from
A hardliner from Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU), Seehofer has caused trouble of late for Chancellor Angela Merkel of late with his tough stance on immigration.
Chancellor Kurz had previously voiced concern for Seehofer’s plan to erect so-called transit centers at the German-Austrian border, the result of which could be large numbers of asylum seekers amassing in Austria.
Seehofer’s proposal, which has directly threatened Merkel’s ruling coalition, is to use the transit centers as a base from which to deport migrants back to the countries in which they first registered. Those migrants not registered will not be admitted into the camps but rather sent directly back to the border, meaning Austria.
That plan was agreed to in a compromise between the CDU and its CSU sister party late Monday night. However, its implementation is contingent upon approval by the center-left Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), which is partnered with the CDU/CSU in Germany’s coalition government. The SPD voiced clear opposition to the idea during coalition talks as the new German government was being formed earlier this year and has reiterated that stance during the CDU/CSU inter-party wrangling of the past several weeks.
The result of such transit centers could be a domino effect in which Austria would be forced to close its border to Italy and Slovenia to keep migrants out of the country. Austrian Vice Chancellor Christian Strache (FPÖ) recently proclaimed that his government would, “Certainly not accept a solution that burdened Austria.”
Stopping the flow
The Vienna meetings were billed as a prelude to another meeting next week between the interior ministers of Austria, Germany and Italy in the Austrian town of Innsbruck. Kurz said the aim of the Innsbruck summit would be to, “establish measures to close the Mediterranean route.” He emphasized that migration to Europe along the southern route must be stopped.
The German interior minister acknowledged that Berlin has yet to reach any consensus agreements with EU countries that would be required to take back migrants denied asylum and that doing so would require, “difficult negotiations.” The level of difficulty was on display Thursday in Berlin when Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban flatly rejected the idea that his country would be required to take back migrants from Germany while meeting with Chancellor Merkel.
This is one area that still threatens the unity of the bloc, even though the rules on taking in migrants have been loosened up Union wide, the matter of how to get rid of them without getting into a battle with other states over who is going to take them becomes the next big issue. This is why Italy needs to be brought into the picture, because Italy is oftentimes the first point of entry for many migrants, and therefore would be liable to assume the many migrants in Germany, Austria, or elsewhere which are currently host to those migrants which migrated to those countries after entering Europe through Italy.
Following Italy’s recent controversial election cycle, fears abounded that Italy could threaten the Union should it elect to withdraw therefrom over the migration matter, together with their ill disposition over certain economic matters. Now, even after the EU summit on the matter, the migrant issue could still provide that same threat, that is if other bloc members insist on deporting large numbers of their migrants back to Italy. Italy, however, has declared that it will not accept even one more and is even turning away vessels loaded with African migrants. Austria doesn’t want Germany’s migrants, and Italy certainly doesn’t want them, or any migrants from any other EU member, which raises the question on how Germany and Austria think they’re going to deport asylum seekers who aren’t yet registered for asylum in their countries?