Austria calls for less money for uncooperative member states

Werner Faymann [SPÖ/Flickr]

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann has called upon the EU to allocate the Central and Eastern member states with less money next year should they continue to block the relocation of refugees. EURACTIV Germany reports.

In the ongoing dispute over how best to distribute refugees fairly around Europe, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann has raised the issue of EU contributions. He told Die Welt on Thursday (17 December), before the EU summit in Brussels, that “whoever takes more out of the EU budget than contributes should not be ducking out of participating in the relocation of refugees”. Faymann added that if the situation were to continue as it is, it would “make it very difficult for a net contributor such as Austria to continue paying in so much money” and that it would “call the entire issue of the EU budget into question”.

>>Read: Slovakia pushes ahead with legal action over EU refugee quotas

The Chancellor highlighted that solidarity is not a one-way street and pointed the finger at Central and Eastern European countries that are refusing to take in refugees from Italy and Greece. Changes to the budget could be made in the coming year at the expense of those non-participating countries, he said. “The multiannual financial framework for 2014-2020 will be evaluated next year. We will be able to have a good look at those countries that have not cooperated on this issue,” warned Faymann.

CDU backing

CDU MEP Gunther Krichbaum also applied more pressure to those nations that have opposed the distribution of refugees. Currently, should countries not cooperate, they face financial measures. “If we aren’t going to manage to build bridges with the Czechs or the Slovaks, then we need to use the money for refugees,” added the head of the Bundestag’s European Affairs Committee.

The current state of play regarding the construction of distribution centres and the actual implementation of the relocation of some 160,000 people is “highly unsatisfactory”, said Krichbaum. EU member states must make it clear that we are a “community of solidarity” and to demonstrate the reasons why the bloc won the Nobel Peace Prize just three years ago.

>>Read: Germany to issue refugees with identity cards

European leaders will meet in Brussels today (17 December) to discuss, among other things, the refugee crisis. One of the main talking points will be the European Commission’s plan for a common border and coast guard scheme. The executive wants the agency to be able to intervene in member states’ territory without expressed consent.

Merkel warns against insular thinking

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called upon Europe to maintain its display of solidarity. “No country is going to be able to deal with this crisis alone,” she told the Bundestag on Wednesday (16 December). “Therefore, we must not fall back into isolationism in times of difficulty,” she added.

The Chancellor welcomed the Commission’s plans for a common border guard framework. She hoped that the proposal could be “discussed and approved as soon as possible”.

Avramopoulos fears for open borders

Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos warned against the consequences of a failed Schengen system. “Schengen has to be preserved and even strengthened,” the Greek Commissioner told German media on Thursday. “If Schengen is in danger, then even the European project is at stake,” he added.

>>Read: Greece sceptical, but won’t veto Commission’s border force plan

Avramopoulos went on to say that “fully open or fully closed borders are not realistic” and that the refugee influx has shown that the EU needs a different approach. He then reinforced his support of the Commission’s border force proposal and reassured its detractors that it is not a question of creating a “European fortress”.

Parliament President Martin Schulz was asked to comment the statement by Faymann today at the EU summit.

“What the Austrian Chancellor has said today to a German newspaper, Die Welt I think, shows that the situation is really dramatic. There is a gap between the member states in terms of strategy how to solve the migration problems. And if the head of government of a country which is immensely concerned by the problem raises the question, saying that in the framework of the budget mid-term review, an issue that will be on the agenda since spring 2016, there is a need to discuss about the budget’s priorities, because the net contributors to the budget are also concerned by the refugee problems, I find this very understandable, and this shows a little bit the state of affairs we are in.”

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov was asked the same question. He said:

“I am categorically against. Cohesion is important for all EU member states. We never raise the issue about the millions of euro we are spending for guarding the EU’s external border. We consider it a moral obligation toward all member states. This subject, raised in these terms, can create a lot of shocks in the EU and it can put in a delicate situation many prime ministers. So I hope this theme of the cohesion won’t be raised again, because it’s wrong.

Asked if he would speak to Faymann about this, he said: “Of course. We are sitting next to each other.”

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