‘Why does ev­ery­thing I do get so overblown?’: Kurz

Tehran Times - - INTERNATIONAL - By Peter Müller & Wal­ter Mayr

In a Der Spiegel in­ter­view, Aus­trian Chan­cel­lor Se­bas­tian Kurz, 32, talks about his goals as holder of the ro­tat­ing Euro­pean Coun­cil pres­i­dency, the fight against il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and his re­la­tion­ship with Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel.

Mr. Chan­cel­lor, Aus­tria is the cur­rent holder of the ro­tat­ing Euro­pean Coun­cil pres­i­dency. The motto you have cho­sen for your six-month ten­ure is “A Europe that Pro­tects.” Who is sup­posed to be pro­tected from whom?

A: In the com­ing months, we want to strengthen all those things that em­body our Europe. The fo­cus will be on se­cu­rity, or­der and the col­lec­tive pro­tec­tion of our ex­ter­nal bor­ders. But we also have to work on our com­pet­i­tive­ness amid the global com­pe­ti­tion in or­der to de­fend the pros­per­ity we have at­tained. My gen­er­a­tion of­ten takes Europe and its suc­cesses for granted.

Please an­swer our ques­tion. Who is sup­posed to be pro­tected from whom?

A: Our pros­per­ity, our econ­omy, our so­cial se­cu­rity and val­ues, and, if you want to nar­row the fo­cus to the ques­tion of mi­gra­tion, one of my pri­or­i­ties is the pro­tec­tion from hu­man traf­fick­ers, who earn their money with refugees and their suf­fer­ing.

What do you hope to achieve on the refugee is­sue by the end of the year?

A: That the trend re­ver­sal we have put in mo­tion will con­tinue. At the last EU sum­mit in June, the heads of state and gov­ern­ment agreed for the first time that un­lim­ited ad­mis­sion (of refugees) in Cen­tral Europe was not the cor­rect path, and that we need ef­fec­tive pro­tec­tion of our ex­ter­nal bor­ders and must ex­pand the amount of as­sis­tance pro­vided there. Now, this trend re­ver­sal, which has al­ready taken place in our minds, must be im­ple­mented in prac­tice.

You are proud of the fact that the EU has adopted your re­stric­tive, closed bor­ders ap­proach to mi­gra­tion, aren’t you?

A: All 28 heads of state and gov­ern­ment agreed on the res­o­lu­tions to­gether. But I was cer­tainly among those who were in fa­vor of a pol­icy change early on.

You are de­mand­ing that refugee ships be pre­vented from dock­ing in Europe and that the ex­ter­nal border pro­tec­tion regime be strength­ened. The ques­tion as to how refugees should be dis­trib­uted in Europe is no longer on the agenda?

A: That isn’t en­tirely ac­cu­rate. I am say­ing that it should not be the case that ev­ery ship full of mi­grants is able to dock in Europe. Our goal should be that of de­stroy­ing the hu­man traf­fick­ers’ busi­ness model. And it will be de­stroyed if some­one who paid a traf­ficker to come to Europe isn’t au­to­mat­i­cally brought to Europe once they are saved at sea.

Cur­rently, the Mediter­ranean coun­tries are ar­gu­ing among them­selves about which EU coun­try should ac­cept each mi­grant ship car­ry­ing a cou­ple of hun­dred peo­ple. The dis­tri­bu­tion ques­tion re­mains un­re­solved.

A: I have a dif­fer­ent pri­or­ity. Egypt is al­ready pre­pared to ac­cept the re­turn of peo­ple who launch from Egyp­tian shores. That is ex­actly what we must now im­ple­ment with Libya, Morocco and Tu­nisia -- by way of stronger co­op­er­a­tion with each coun­try’s coast guard, for ex­am­ple. I want to get to the point where the refugee ships don’t even em­bark on the voy­age to Europe.

The United Na­tions Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has warned about dire hu­man­i­tar­ian con­di­tions in Libya. Should Libya be seen as a safe coun­try of ori­gin?

A: When peo­ple set out from Libya on the way to Europe and al­ready be­gin run­ning into trouble in Libyan coastal wa­ters, then it is a good thing when that coun­try’s coast guard saves them and brings them back to Libya.

For as long as most North African coun­tries are un­will­ing to take peo­ple back, the de­ci­sive ques­tion re­mains: Ac­cord­ing to what rules will asy­lum-seek­ers be dis­trib­uted across Europe?

A: If it were up to me, those who clearly have no right to asy­lum should not be al­lowed into the EU at all but should be sent back to their coun­tries of ori­gin or to tran­sit coun­tries as quickly as pos­si­ble.

The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and the UN Refugee Agency ar­gue in fa­vor of as­sem­bling refugees de­serv­ing of pro­tec­tion in camps in North Africa be­fore dis­tribut­ing them through­out the EU.

A: I have a dif­fer­ent po­si­tion. I think it would be much bet­ter for us to bring peo­ple to us directly from their coun­tries of ori­gin once we de­cide to ac­cept them. And that they don’t end up in a North African refugee camp where they have to spend months wait­ing for a de­ci­sion to be made about their ap­pli­ca­tion.

How do you in­tend to get to the point that mi­grants no longer em­bark on the jour­ney north?

A: It is a mis­take to be­lieve that the mi­gra­tion ques­tion can only be solved through de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion. Dur­ing our coun­cil pres­i­dency, we want to em­bark on new, more in­no­va­tive paths. By the mid­dle of the cen­tury, 2 bil­lion peo­ple will be liv­ing in Africa. As such, we want to strengthen eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion, cre­ate chan­nels for pri­vate in­vest­ment and es­tab­lish vo­ca­tional train­ing pro­grams for young peo­ple. We hope to take a de­ci­sive step for­ward in De­cem­ber at an EU sum­mit with African coun­tries.

How is your cur­rent re­la­tion­ship with Italy? When it comes to mi­gra­tion, you hold sim­i­lar views to Mat­teo Salvini, head of the far-right party Lega and Italy’s in­te­rior min­is­ter. But Rome is now threat­en­ing to stop pay­ing its EU con­tri­bu­tions. What are your thoughts on that?

A: I don’t like such threats. But it is also clear that we can­not aban­don those EU mem­ber states that are un­der pres­sure due to mi­gra­tion. In the last sev­eral years, coun­tries like Ger­many, Aus­tria and Swe­den were more strongly af­fected by the refugee cri­sis. In the mean­time, how­ever, the pres­sure has be­come greater else­where.

Re­gard­ing the is­sue of the fu­ture lead can­di­dates for the of­fice of Euro­pean Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent, do you think Ger­many’s Man­fred We­ber, the CSU politi­cian who re­cently threw his hat into the ring, is the right per­son for the job?

A: I know him and have high re­gard for him. He is a ded­i­cated Euro­pean who has made a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the Euro­pean Union as a whole.

At the in­for­mal EU sum­mit on Sept. 20 in Salzburg, Brexit will be the main topic of con­ver­sa­tion, not mi­gra­tion. Does that fit with your agenda?

A: I hope that we are able to make some progress on Brexit. The most im­por­tant chal­lenge dur­ing the Aus­trian coun­cil pres­i­dency is the or­derly prepa­ra­tion of Brexit. Should Bri­tain’s exit be messy, it would re­sult in mas­sive harm to both sides, in­clud­ing us in the EU-27. It would be good if in Salzburg we al­ready had a Euro­pean Com­mis­sion pro­posal for find­ing an agree­ment with Bri­tain this fall.

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