June 20, 2018 / 1:59 PM / 4 months ago

Austria's Kurz says to push for rapid EU action on migration

LINZ, Austria (Reuters) - Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz will push at a meeting of European leaders this weekend for rapid action on migration, he said on Wednesday, threatening to go it alone on creating asylum centers outside the bloc in the event of months-long paralysis.

Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz talks with Bavaria's Prime Minister Markus Soeder before a joint cabinet meeting in Linz, Austria, June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU) on Monday gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel two weeks to get a deal with European allies on migration, temporarily defusing a spat between Merkel’s Christian Democrats and their sister party that threatens to collapse the coalition government.

Bavaria's Prime Minister Markus Soeder and Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz address a news conference after a joint Austrian and Bavarian cabinet meeting in Linz, Austria, June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Kurz, an immigration hard-liner who governs in coalition with the far right, has pledged to prevent a repeat of Europe’s migration crisis in which Austria took in more than 1 percent of its population in asylum seekers. He wants a tougher mandate for Frontex, the EU border agency, to intervene at sea and abroad.

“We have reached a point where the position of most countries goes in the right direction, where most agree that open external borders are the wrong way,” Kurz said after a joint cabinet meeting between the governments of Austria and Bavaria, which lie across the German border from each other.

The leaders of Germany, France, Italy, Austria and other countries will meet on Sunday in Brussels to discuss migration ahead of a full European leaders’ summit on June 28-29.

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“We will apply pressure so that there are decisions that go in this direction, and the at least equally important question is whether these decisions will be implemented rapidly,” Kurz told a news conference with the CSU premier of Bavaria, without specifying what those decisions might be.

Austria takes over the rotating EU presidency in July for six months, during which Kurz said he aims to secure “the possibility for Frontex to be active in third countries ... to fight against people-smugglers the way in other parts of the world the drug mafia is fought”.

The EU could take steps to stop asylum seekers moving on from the country in which they are registered and start deciding asylum requests at centers to be established beyond EU borders in the future, according to a draft statement prepared for the full summit next week.

“Should the will not be there ... we will definitely have to think about how we as individual states can start such projects together in a small group,” Kurz said of the asylum centers, adding that for now the aim was a European solution.

“We as Austria have had good initial talks here with Denmark and other small states.”

Reporting by Francois Murphy, Editing by William Maclean

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