While liberal-establishment politicians continue to embrace resettlement claims for tens of thousands of Afghans within the European Union, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz made it abundantly clear where he stands, calling for the bloc to do everything in its power to keep Afghans out.
Chancellor Kurz, who heads Austria’s center-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), doubled down on his position about the issue of Afghan resettlement during a press conference in Belgrade earlier this week with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, Euronews reports.
“If there are waves of migration from Afghanistan, migrants must be taken care of in neighboring countries. That is why we are in contact with countries in this region,” Kurz said, adding that “[Afghans] must not come to Europe.”
The Austrian chancellor, who was presented with the Order of the Republic of Serbia adorned on a ribbon, also thanked Vučić for the “massive contribution” that Serbia has made to fight against illegal immigration in recent years.
Kurz also lauded Greece’s conservative government for having constructed a 40-kilometer barrier system along its border with Turkey, which will work to further fortify the bloc’s external border.
“Today, at the external borders of the EU, these phenomena are better dealt with and the approach is different than it was in 2015, when EU funding financed by European taxpayers pushed migrants through Greece and then into other countries in Europe,” the chancellor said.
“Times have changed. Greece is now making a significant contribution and great efforts to guard the EU’s external borders,” he added.
Kurz’s thoughts on migration were echoed by his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vučić, who declared, “Those who leave Afghanistan have a clear goal: Western Europe and the United States. Not many want to stay in the Western Balkans. We will show solidarity with everyone, but we will not be the place where they can park.”
Aside from immigration, the two heads of state spoke at length about bilateral trade and investments, as well as the accession of Serbia to the European Union. Presently, Serbia is Austria’s largest trading partner in the Western Balkans, with an annual trading volume of over €1 billion.
Since the beginning of the Afghan debacle, Kurz has consistently been one of the loudest voices in Europe to speak out against the resettlement of Afghans throughout the bloc. Earlier this week, following a meeting with the prime ministers of Czechia and Slovakia, Kurz spoke of the need to support Afghan neighbors to prevent another migrant crisis — like the one seen in 2015 — from occurring.
“We must support people — Austria has, therefore, decided to spend a large amount of extra money — €18 million — to support Afghans in their neighboring countries,” Kurz said.
“But we cannot allow 2015 to be repeated. We are against illegal migration. We will fight smugglers and smuggling people — there can be no uncontrolled migration flow to Europe,” he added.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš struck a similar tone, saying, “Illegal migrants pay to come to Europe. We must prevent this outside of Europe. There really is no place for them in Europe.”