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IMMIGRATION

Austria rejects calls for German border controls

The Austrian interior ministry has rejected calls for the reintroduction of border controls with Germany, following claims from the German state of Bavaria that large numbers of refugees are crossing the border.

Austria rejects calls for German border controls
Austria's border with Bavaria. Photo: Mike Gnell/Gadding.com

On Sunday, Bavaria’s interior minister Joachim Herrmann demanded more police checks on the Austrian border. “Given the huge problems on Bavaria’s border with Austria, the federal police must be significantly strengthened,” Herrmann said.

An Austrian police source told the Kronen Zeitung that Bavaria would only be “harming itself if it tries to reintroduce pre-Schengen border controls”.

Countries belonging to the Schengen area allow passport-free movement across their borders, making it easier to travel. Members of the Schengen agreement may reinstate border controls for a short period, if this is necessary for “public policy or national security” reasons.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for a common EU asylum policy to help deal with the current influx of refugees.

Speaking on ZDF public television, Merkel said the Dublin agreement, which accords responsibility for processing asylum seekers to the EU country in which they first arrive, was not working.

She said the EU also needed agreement on which countries asylum seekers could be returned to if their applications were rejected.

Some German officials have said the number of asylum-seekers could top 600,000 this year, and thousands of refugees are sleeping in tents. 

IMMIGRATION

‘Discrimination’: Austria’s benefit cuts for immigrants ‘go against free movement’

Benefit cuts imposed by Austria on immigrants whose children live in their country of origin contradict EU law becasue they constitute "discrimination on the ground of nationality", a legal adviser at the bloc's top court said on Thursday.

A picture of the sign and logo of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg
A picture of the sign and logo of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg on January 13, 2020. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)

The opinion is the latest legal hitch to befall a series of measures — imposed by a previous government that included the far-right — which sought to restrict benefit payments to foreigners.

Richard de la Tour, advocate general of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), said the cuts to child benefits constituted “an infringement of the right of free movement conferred on EU citizens”.

The specific case relates to reforms that came into effect in 2019 which indexed child benefits according to where the recipient’s children live.

This meant reduced payments for tens of thousands of eastern Europeans who work in Austria — notably in the care sector — but whose children remain in their countries of origin.

The advocate general’s advice is not binding on the court but it is seen as influential.

De la Tour found that the cuts were “indirect discrimination on the ground of nationality which is permissible only if it is objectively justified”, and that Austria had failed to do so.

They contravened the principle that “if a migrant worker pays social contributions and taxes in a member state, he or she must be able to benefit from the same allowances as nationals of that state”, he added.

In 2020 the European Commission, supported by six eastern member states, brought an action before the CJEU claiming Austria was “failing to fulfil its obligations”.

Former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had said he hoped the cuts would save 114 million euros ($130 million) a year but in 2019 they recouped 62 million euros.

The former coalition also introduced benefit cuts for immigrants who failed to reach a certain level of German, but those measures were subsequently overturned by the Austrian courts.

The government that introduced in the cuts was brought down in a corruption scandal in May 2019.

It included the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (OeVP), which is still the senior partner in the current government.

However their current coalition partners, the Greens, opposed the benefit cuts at the time.

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