Austria bemoans lack of EU solidarity over migrants

Austria bemoans lack of EU solidarity over migrants
Refugees at the Austrian border. File photo: APA
Austria's government defended its toughened line on migrants on Thursday, saying ahead of an EU summit that its unilateral measures were necessary because of a lack of EU "solidarity", in particular from France.

“It would be different if we had a 'coalition of the willing', or however you want to call it, that really took in all those (migrants) who are coming,” said Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner.

“The French are involved in this 'coalition of the willing' but said a few days ago that they are only taking 30,000 (migrants over the next two years),” he told public radio. “The solidarity is not there.”

An EU plan from last year to resettle 160,000 refugees among the 28-nation bloc has so far seen only several hundred asylum seekers moved between EU countries, as the continent struggles with its worst migration crisis since World War II.

Vienna this week announced that as of Friday, it would only admit 80 asylum seekers per day, and that it planned unspecified “structural measures” at 12 checkpoints on its southern borders.

This year the government says it will only admit 37,500 asylum seekers, down sharply from the 90,000 who applied in 2015, a number which made Austria one of Europe's biggest recipients on a per-capita basis.

It says that the measures are necessary because a German-backed EU plan for Turkey to stem the flow of migrants setting off from its coast is not yet working, and has urged other countries on the Balkans route into Europe to follow suit.

European Parliament chief Martin Schulz sharply criticised Austria on Thursday, sarcastically dubbing Vienna's actions on German TV as an “intellectually brilliant solution”.

A planned meeting of 11 countries including Austria and Germany — nicknamed the “coalition of the willing” — with Turkey was cancelled late on Wednesday after Turkey's premier pulled out following a bomb attack in Ankara.