June 23, 2018 / 12:20 PM / in a month

Austria's Strache expects EU chain reaction if Germany blocks borders

ZURICH (Reuters) - Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache said on Saturday he expects a chain reaction across the European Union if Germany closes its borders to refugees.

Austrian Vice-Chancellor Heinz Christian Strache speaks next to Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini during a news conference at the Viminale in Rome, Italy, June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

“That’s the logical consequence, and we are prepared for it and will similarly protect our borders,” Strache told Austrian broadcaster Oe1’s Mittagsjournal program, adding that Italy was taking similar measures.

EU nations have been at loggerheads over migration since a spike in arrivals from the Middle East in 2015, when more than a million migrants reached its shores across the Mediterranean.

“It can’t come to a renewed (migration) wave like the one seen in 2015 again,” Strache said.

EU leaders will hold an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss the dispute, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel under pressure to reach a swift deal.

However, several countries have said they will boycott the meeting in Brussels, and a clash between Rome and Berlin has made a breakthrough unlikely.

Austria’s Strache said the bloc must focus on controlling its external borders efficiently in order to bring illegal immigration to an end.

After a recent meeting with Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, Strache ruled out Italy, which has borne a large proportion of arrivals over the past five years, would begin allowing people through to other EU countries without registering them first.

Rome objects to suggestions that asylum seekers should be returned to the EU country they first registered in.

“Italy will not wave them through,” Strache said.

Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Alexander Smith

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