Austria says ready to protect borders if Germany moves on migrants

Reuters , Tuesday 3 Jul 2018

File photo: Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz holds a news conference after meeting European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, June 6, 2018. (Reuters photo)

Austria is prepared to take measures to protect its southern borders if an immigration deal within Germany's coalition goes into effect, the government in Vienna said on Tuesday.

Austria was responding to a deal reached late on Monday between German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and her partners in Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU), settling a row over immigration that had threatened to topple the German government.

Under the deal, migrants who have already applied for asylum in other European Union countries will be held in transit centres on the border while Germany negotiates bilateral deals for their return.

Austria, which has Germany on its northern border, has repeatedly said it will at least match any German measures on its own frontiers further down migrant routes, such as those it shares with Italy and Slovenia.

"Should this agreement become the German government's position, we see that as prompting us to take action to prevent negative consequences for Austria and its population," Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in a joint statement with two far-right members of his cabinet.

"The government is therefore prepared in particular to take measures for the protection of our southern borders," the statement by Kurz, Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache and Interior Minister Herbert Kickl said, without elaborating. Austria's southernmost borders are with Slovenia and Italy.

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