VIENNA – Kurz threatens to veto EU budget and Operation Sophia

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) said in a radio interview on Saturday (1 February) that Austria would veto the current proposal for the EU’s multiannual financial framework (MFF), saying that it was “unacceptable” for Austria to pay more than 1% of its GDP (the current draft would increase contributions to 1.1%).

Kurz said that four other net payer countries (Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark) share this stance and would also veto the current proposal.

Read also: “EU to use revamped ‘Operation Sophia’ to enforce Libyan arms embargo

Operation Sophia was set up in 2015 to combat people smugglers operating from the Libyan coast and to enforce a UN arms embargo on the warring parties. It was suspended as a naval mission in March 2019, after Italy objected to recused migrants being landed in its ports, and is now limited to aerial surveillance.

EU ministers have now decided to revive the maritime surveillance mission in the Mediterranean to enforce a potential cease-fire in Libya and a UN arms embargo against the country’s warring parties.

In an interview with Welt am Sonntag, Kurz said that Austria would oppose this, as migrants could perceive it as a “ticket to Europe”. Instead, Kurz proposed to tackle arms smuggling on the ground and in the air.

Kurz will meet German chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday in Berlin. With the German EU-presidency just months away, it is likely that Austria’s positions on these and other EU-matters will be discussed. (Philipp Grüll | EURACTIV.de)

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