February 21. 2024. 7:31

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Austria threatens to block EU summit conclusions on migration

Austria will block the joint final European Council declaration at the two-day summit starting on Thursday if the EU does not adopt a harder line on migration, Chancellor Karl Nehammer told Die Welt on Wednesday.

In the run-up to the summit, Austria and seven other member states demanded the overhaul of the EU asylum system by better curbing irregular migration in a joint letter seen by EURACTIV. With just one day to go before the summit, Nehammer doubled down on these demands.

If no harder line is drawn on migration, Austria would “not be able to support” the EU summit’s final declaration, the Austrian conservative told Die Welt.

“Empty words will not be enough. There finally needs to be a clear and explicit commitment to strengthen external border protection and to use appropriate financial resources from the EU budget for this purpose,” Nehammer stressed about an EU asylum system he says is broken.

In Austria, the opposition has already criticised Nehammer for being so vocal ahead of the summit.

“Those who always block also achieve nothing,” said Reinhold Einwallner, from the social democratic SPÖ, in opposition. “Austria should put all its energy into finding real solutions, instead, the chancellor is again only trying to score domestic political points,” he added.

“The announcement not to sign some insubstantial declaration is another smear from the ÖVP asylum PR department, nothing else,” Hannes Amesbauer from the right-wing populist FPÖ added.

The number of asylum requests in Austria tripled last year to 108,490 applications, making it the EU nation with the sharpest increase overall. According to the Commission, almost 924,000 asylum applications were submitted in the EU in 2022, which is a 46.5% increase compared to 2021.

Austria has been one of the main drivers of this week’s European Council summit with its recent veto against Bulgaria and Romania’s accession to the visa-free Schengen area and has called for a harder line on migration during a meeting of EU interior ministers in Stockholm.

(Chiara Swaton | EURACTIV.de)