Austria asks Commission for €600 million to cover refugee costs

Portraits of refugees and Austrians forming a collage on a street. Vienna, October 2015. [Andreas Schalk/Flickr]

The European Commission will decide whether to provide extra emergency funding for member states to tackle the costs of the refugee crisis after the meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels this Friday (12 February).

On Saturday (6 February), Austria’s Finance Minister Hans Jörg Schelling sent a letter to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva asking the EU to provide €600 million to cover the costs of his country accepting refugees. Schelling believes that only three member states are shouldering the burden of the refugee crisis.

In 2015, over 90,000 people applied for asylum in Austria representing more than 1% of the population of the small country of 8.5 million.

The Austrian government announced last month that it would cap the number of people allowed to claim asylum this year to 37,500, and that it would send excess refugees back, or deport them to the neighbouring countries through which they came.

>>Read: Austria introduces cap on refugees, will deport ‘surplus’

“We’re of course are always interested in any proposals and ideas that can help us tackle the refugee crisis,” Mina Andreeva, a Commission spokesperson said during a news conference on Monday (8 February), adding that the executive will make a formal decision on what more can be done after the finance ministers submit their proposals on Friday.

The Commission has so far mobilised more than €10 billion from the EU budget to assist the countries most affected by the refugee crisis.

From the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, and the Internal Security Fund, €8.4 billion was earmarked for 2014-2020 to address migration and security challenges within the EU.

In December, the European Commission awarded €35 million to Sweden, €8 million to Finland and €5 million to Belgium in emergency funding to help them cover the costs of asylum seekers.

Austria’s Chancellor Werner Faymann has previously pushed for his country’s spending on refugees to be recognised by the EU when budget deficit calculations are made. Eurozone countries are obliged by EU law to bring their budget close to balance, or into surplus, in structural terms.

For Austria, the Commission estimates in its economic forecast that the increased flow of asylum seekers is expected to impact GDP with additional expenditure and contribute to a rise in the unemployment rate, to 6.2% in 2016 and 6.4% in 2017, up from 6.0% in 2015.

But last wek, Economic and Financial Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici stressed that the EU is still has a lot of work to do before it can publish more details on the impact of the refugee crisis over national budgets.

> Read: EU silent over impact of refugees on national budgets


While the European Commission hesitates to give concrete figures, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that Sweden will spend 1% of its GDP for the cost of asylum seekers in 2016, Denmark 0.6% and Finland 0.4%, while Spain and the Czech Republic will only use 0.03% and 0.02%, respectively.

The cost of the refugee crisis varies greatly in member states, not only depending on the number arriving in a specific country, but also related to the cost of housing, and whether the host country will provide for example free healthcare and language courses.

  • 12 February: EU finance ministers meet in Brussels to discuss the costs of the refugee crisis.

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