Vienna resolutions aim to stop refugees

The Balkan states and Austria have agreed in Vienna on joint measures for reducing the number of refugees on the Balkan route. Some commentators see the cooperation as a step in the right direction. Others complain that such unilateral action undermines European solidarity.

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Delo (SI) /

Greece being left in the lurch

Austria and the Balkan countries have washed their hands of the refugee crisis at their summit and put the entire blame on Greece, the centre-left daily Delo criticises:

“The Balkan states have simply waved the refugees northward as quickly as they could, passing the buck on to other countries. Yet another reason why their punishment of Greece, which is already so in ruins, is inappropriate. Athens is right to complain about the lack of solidarity. And it's completely unclear what Greece is supposed to do with tens of thousands of stranded refugees. International organisations warn of an imminent humanitarian crisis - a consequence of the Vienna-Balkans summit 'of reason'. The refugees will be forced to seek out even more dangerous routes, meaning that this is not the end of tensions in the EU.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Austria's step in the right direction

The collaboration between the Balkan countries and Austria won't reduce refugee numbers immediately but it will defuse tensions in these countries, the conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung comments approvingly:

“Any step that quickly reduces the number of refugees arriving in Germany will produce a tailback elsewhere on the migration routes. … If there is a consensus on decreasing the number of new arrivals the goal must be to ensure that conditions are as humane as possible for migrants stranded on the routes and that this doesn't cause political upheavals in the affected countries. So Austria's collaboration with the Balkan states is a step in the right direction: these are politically and economically fragile countries that until recently were themselves quite high up in the statistics on migrants' states of origin.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Domino effect won't stop the flood

The Austrian daily Der Standard bemoans the lack of a clear approach in Austria's refugee policy:

“The goal must be to stop people starting out on the journey in the first place, because they know they stand no chance of reaching their desired destination. Nevertheless a repetition of the horror scenario of August 2015, when tens of thousands of desperate refugees were left stranded in Hungary, must be prevented at all costs. Yet this is exactly the effect the government's current strategy will have. The numbers - and the means of achieving them - have been chosen in such a way as to leave the door open a crack and keeps hopes alive. The domino effect Austria is hoping for won't be enough to stop the flood of refugees. Because it will take a long time for the message that there is an upper limit on the number of refugees [to be let through at the border] to reach Afghanistan, Morocco and Turkey.”

Dimokratia (GR) /

No solidarity left

The results of the Balkan conference in Vienna highlight the collapse of solidarity in Europe, the conservative daily Dimokratia laments:

“The EU members are nation states and they demonstrate this at every opportunity. No one thinks in European terms because no one sees themselves as simply European - apart from those [in Brussels] clinging to the mechanisms that created the power of those greedy and ruthless epicentres [the nation states]. … As soon as the refugee crisis escalated, the rules, values and all those important things that supposedly make the EU what it is disappeared. Borders are being sealed and the Schengen Agreement and all those pages of text stipulating how the states should behave towards each other and their citizens have morphed into empty phrases.”

Právo (CZ) /

Fear of FPÖ prompted Vienna's turnaround

There is one reason in particular why Austria has stopped supporting Germany on refugee policy, the left leaning daily Právo explains:

“Polls from the end of January show that if parliamentary elections were held now the anti-refugee FPÖ party would win, claiming a third of the votes. Only a few weeks back it was at just 27 percent. The MPs won't be elected for another two years, but the Austrians elect a new president at the end of March. That president probably won't be from the FPÖ but if the ruling parties suffer major losses many a politician's seat could become wobbly. And every member of the political elite wants to avoid that at all cost - refugees or no refugees.”