GERMANY and Austria have declared their intentions to close the so-called southern route for refugees as part of a tough new crackdown on migration across the European Union.
Interior ministers from Berlin, Vienna, Italy and Greece will meet in Innsbruck in the coming weeks to reduce migratory pressure from across the Mediterranean, said Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
He said: “Next week there will be a meeting between the ministers of interior of Germany, Austria and Italy to decide measures to close the route of migration in the Mediterranean.”
Mr Kurz made the declaration after Germany’s interior minister Horst Seehofer after Berlin said it would establish transition camps on the country’s southern border to faster progress asylum seekers and deport those already rejected.
Both Italy and Austria responded to a joint statement from Mr Seehofer and Angela Merkel by confirming they would also introduce border controls.
After today’s meeting, Mr Seehofer said they discussed closing off the entire southern route completely and Germany would take no measures which would detriment their neighbours in Austria.
Their decision brings the European Union’s Schengen free-travel zone into question with a number of the bloc’s most influential countries looking to introduce border controls.
Migration has been a hot topic around Brussels with many of the bloc’s leaders demanding a new common approach.
Mrs Merkel has held a number of crisis talks with Mr Seehofer, who also heads up the Grand Coalition’s junior partner the Christian Social Union.
While negotations Between Germany and Austria were ongoing in Vienna, Mrs Merkel hosted Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for similar discussions in Berlin.
Prior to his trip to the German capital, Mr Orban insisted his country would be open to bilateral migration deals with Berlin but only if Mrs Merkel can first strike an agreement with Mr Kurz and Austria.
But during their meeting, both Mr Orban and Mrs Merkel disagreed over the Hungarian’s perceived lack of “humanity”.
She said Europe would be judged on its response to the migrant crisis and said the EU needed to unite to “retain its soul”.
Mrs Merkel said: “We must never forget this is about people. It’s about people who come to us and that has something to do with Europe’s basic message: humanity.”
“I believe the soul of Europe is humanity and if we want to retain this soul and play a role in Europe with these values then Europe can’t simply decouple from the need and suffering.”
Mr Orban replied: “If the help offered by Europe to migrants leads people in Africa and Asia to conclude that they can come, then they will come.
“We have to be humane without creating a pull-factor, and the only way we know of doing that is closing the borders and taking help, and not let in people who bring trouble.”
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