Austria announced on Wednesday (17 February) that it was introducing a daily limit on the number of asylum applications it would process. Vienna will now accept only 80 applications a day and it will allow a maximum of 3,200 people who are transiting the country to seek asylum in a neighboring country. The decision came only a day after Vienna said it would intensify border controls and a couple of days after it announced that it was decreasing the number of asylum seekers this year to 37,500 from 90,000 last year.
Austrian Interior Minister, Johanna Mikl-Leitner, commented that “Austria is among the EU countries most under strain and is reaching breaking point. It stands to reason to want to secure your own borders when there is no European solution”. At the same time, just before the EU summit on the continent’s migration crisis, Eastern European EU Member States set a mid-March deadline for the Turkish plan. Germany’s Angela Merkel described the plan as “a good solution” and urged for a “common stance” within the 28-country bloc. Austria’s Chancellor, Werner Faymann, said that his country still supported the proposed plan to close the Turkish borders and fly refugees to Europe.
However, other EU countries, most notably the so-called “merciless four” of the Visegrad countries – Poland, Hungary and the Czech and Slovak Republics – oppose the plan and defy Chancellor Merkel. Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davuto?lu, was in the end forced to call off his visit to Brussels to attend meetings on the migration crisis due to the Wednesday attacks in Ankara that had killed 28 people and wounded dozens. Mr Davuto?lu was supposed to meet Angela Merkel and 10 other leaders to talk about the ways to tame the flow of migrants to the ‘Old Continent’.