Austria has defended holding a refugee summit with West Balkan states without inviting Greece. Athens,…
The EU continues to dither with its response to the refugee crisis, but Austria has decided not to wait any longer. The Balkan conference in Vienna was about making agreements on controlling the influx of refugees.
Westbalkan Konferenz Sebastian Kurz Johanna Mikl-Leitner Wien Österreich
Wednesday’s conference was called on short notice, an Austrian message to Greece and the European Union. Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz (above right) said if Greece refused to protect the EU’s external borders and continued to let refugees travel to Europe, and the EU still had no common solution for the problem, Austria had no choice but to deal with the situation on a national level.
Interior and foreign ministers from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia were invited to the one-day conference.
“We invited all of the countries along the Balkan route that will be affected by our decision,” said Kurz.
Germany must choose
“We want to slow the influx. So far, refugees have been brought to Central Europe. Now we simply cannot keep up with the numbers. We have set a limit of 37,500 for this year; that is still a lot compared to other European states,” said Kurz.
“Germany has to decide what signals it wants to give. They are still signaling an open-door policy toward Greece, but they expect Austria to stop the influx. Those are two very different signals,” said Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner (above left).
Infografik Balkanroute und die Alternative Routen Englisch
Vienna conference without Greece
Greece was not invited to the Vienna conference, prompting harsh criticism from Athens. Politicians there are fearful of decisions that will worsen the already tense situation at Greece’s border with Macedonia.
On Tuesday, the Greek Foreign Ministry announced that Athens had filed a diplomatic complaint in protest of the conference organized by Kurz and Mikl-Leitner, both members of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP).
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