Austria wants to focus in its upcoming presidency of the European Union on keeping refugees outside the bloc’s external borders instead of resettling them within the EU. Austria is the only Western European country that has a far-right party in the government, following a parliamentary election last year that was dominated by migration agenda. Vienna is to take over the rotating six-month presidency of the European Union from Bulgaria in July.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said earlier that he wanted his country and Austria to have a “joint presidency”. His Austrian counterpart Sebastian Kurz has geared his country away from calling on the Eastern European member states to accept the refugee resettlement program. Mr. Kurz is an anti-immigration hardliner who has pledged to work with the Visegrad countries – Poland, Hungary and the Czech and Slovak Republics – to bring the two sides closer. “Our aim is very clear – that in Europe there should not only be a dispute over redistribution (of refugees) but also, at last, a shift of focus towards securing external borders,” Mr. Kurz said.
Austrian Prime Minister also added that there was no point in arguing over the current quota system since the Visegrad countries would not agree. Instead, he was proposing a system in which migrants rescued in the Mediterranean are returned to their home countries rather than brought to Europe. He has pledged to end illegal immigration altogether. “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.