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MIGRANT CRISIS

IMMIGRATION

Faymann calls for emergency summit

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann called Sunday for an emergency EU summit to resolve the migrant crisis, saying his country's admittance of thousands of refugees crossing from Hungary was just a "temporary" measure.

Faymann calls for emergency summit
Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann. Photo: SPÖ

Migrants have been streaming into Austria from Hungary since Friday, after Hungary laid on buses and trains to take them to the border following days of confrontations with migrants who were barred by police from continuing their journey westwards.

On arrival in Austria many of the migrants boarded trains and buses to Germany — the final destination of most of the people seeking refuge from conflicts in Syria, Iraq and other countries.

Austria has provided special trains to take them across the border.

“A measure of this type cannot be a solution,” Faymann was quoted by APA news agency as saying, emphasising that the assistance was a temporary manifestation of Vienna's “goodwill” in the face of a humanitarian emergency.

“There is no alternative to a common European solution,” Faymann, a Social Democrat said, calling for a summit of EU leaders “immediately after” an interior ministers' meeting on September 14.

Austria is among the countries calling for binding quotas on the number of refugees to be taken by each EU member state.

Vienna also wants EU members to adopt common rules on the granting of asylum.

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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