EU min­is­ters unite against il­le­gal mi­grants

Shanghai Daily - - WORLD - (Reuters)

THE hard­line in­te­rior min­is­ters of Aus­tria, Ger­many and Italy have formed an “axis of the will­ing” to com­bat il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, Aus­trian Chan­cel­lor Se­bas­tian Kurz said yes­ter­day, es­ca­lat­ing a Europe-wide row over the is­sue.

The an­nounce­ment by Kurz in Ber­lin af­ter talks with Ger­man In­te­rior Min­is­ter Horst See­hofer marks a shot across the bow at Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, who is try­ing to pull to­gether a deal for EU co­op­er­a­tion on plac­ing asy­lum seek­ers.

See­hofer — who is locked in an open mi­gra­tion feud with Merkel that is threat­en­ing the sta­bil­ity of her coali­tion govern­ment — said that he and his far-right Aus­trian and Ital­ian coun­ter­parts, Her­bert Kickl and Mat­teo Salvini, formed their al­liance this week.

Their co­op­er­a­tion would ex­tend to “is­sues of se­cu­rity and ter­ror­ism,” he said, but did not of­fer specifics on what it would en­tail.

Kurz, whose coun­try as­sumes the EU’s ro­tat­ing pres­i­dency on July 1, said he wel­comed the “good co­op­er­a­tion that we want to de­velop be­tween Rome, Vi­enna and Ber­lin.”

“I think it marks very sen­si­ble co­op­er­a­tion that will con­trib­ute to re­duc­ing il­le­gal mi­gra­tion to Europe,” Kurz told re­porters at a con­vivial news con­fer­ence with See­hofer, in marked con­trast to the far more for­mal ex­change he had with Merkel late Tues­day.

Merkel, widely seen as Europe’s most prom­i­nent pro­po­nent of a gen­er­ous refugee pol­icy, has firmly re­jected a plan put for­ward by See­hofer to turn back at Ger­man bor­ders any asy­lum seeker al­ready reg­is­tered in an­other EU coun­try. She ar­gues that her coun­try should not go it alone while Europe searches for a com­mon pol­icy.

See­hofer has won sup­port from Salvini, who on Mon­day flatly re­fused to al­low a res­cue ves­sel car­ry­ing hun­dreds of mi­grants to dock. The move was sharply crit­i­cized by France, touch­ing off a bit­ter dis­pute be­tween the Euro­pean heavy­weights.

De­spite the gulf be­tween them, See­hofer in­sisted yes­ter­day that he was com­mit­ted to strik­ing a com­pro­mise with Merkel this week, al­though what shape it would take ap­peared com­pletely un­known.

Merkel was re-elected for a fourth term in Septem­ber but saw her rul­ing ma­jor­ity de­pleted by voter un­ease over the in­flux of more than 1 mil­lion mi­grants in 2015-16.

Kurz won the chan­cellery last year in an al­liance with the far­right, vow­ing to tackle il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, an is­sue that also pro­pelled a pop­ulist al­liance to power in Italy.

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