The motto for the European Union’s six-month rotating presidency beginning July 1 is “A Europe that protects”. With Austria at the helm, migration is at the top of the agenda.
On the website of the Austrian presidency, there is call for “security” and tighter borders to help the “fight against illegal immigration”.
As reported by the Agence-France Presse (AFP), Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’ government – in alliance with the far right party FPO – has called for a more restrictive EU policy, including increased protection of the bloc’s external borders.
However, reform to the contentious Dublin Regulation on asylum, which says migrants must be dealt with by the first country in which they arrive, is causing tension between member states. And it is unlikely Austria will be able to resolve the standoff.
Vienna supports the Visegrad countries of Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia which reject Brussels’ proposal to allocate asylum seekers in times of crisis.
In a separate report, Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, noted that the dispute over a common EU migration policy is far from resolved.
While the EU summit unanimously agreed to do more protect its external borders, the problem of how to distribute migrants within the bloc went unsolved at the EU summit in Brussels last week. The question continues to weigh heavily on the bloc just days before Austria takes the reigns of the EU Council presidency.
“I think people are justifiably fed up of hearing migration talked about at the EU level, but not seeing anything happen in practice,” said Kurz a few days ahead of his country’s ascendance to the EU Council presidency in Brussels.
According to DW, there is still little agreement on what to do with migrants who are already in the EU. Italy has been demanding for years that refugees registered in Italy be relocated to other EU states. Slovakia and Hungary unsuccessfully appealed against EU policy in 2015, both countries still took fewer refugees than is required of them by the bloc. Austria, like many other EU states, also did not fulfil its refugee intake quota.
“A presidency carries the task of bringing together fundamental positions,” said Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn on German national radio channel Deutschlandfunk. “I consider it not right, not good, not European, and misleading that the Austrian presidency is aligning itself so strongly with the Visegrad countries. It will damage the European Union!”