Austrian defence minister calls for EU military to strengthen border control

Mario Kunasek, the Austrian defence minister, has urged other European Union (EU) member states to support a plan that would allow EU armed forces to support border guards, in an attempt to stop migrants from entering the EU.

According to Reuters, the suggestion was made during a recent meeting of EU defence ministers in Vienna. After the meeting, Mr. Kunasek, who is member of the anti-immigrant Freedom party, said there was a “positive discussion” about the idea..

“We have got to protect our borders effectively,” he added.

Austria is trying to use its EU presidency to ensure there is not a repeat of the 2015 migration crisis, when more than a million migrants made their way into Europe.

However, other European countries remained doubtful about the Austrian proposal.

“There are very few ways that the military, even theoretically, can be used in border areas,” Estonia’s defence minister Juri Luik told Reuters. “If you don’t have a military conflict, everything can be handled by police,” he added.

During the meeting of defence ministers, Italy also demanded that other EU countries open their ports to ships that have rescued migrants in the Mediterranean, threatening to otherwise withhold support for the EU naval mission against people smuggling, known as operation Sophia.

“It is no longer possible that Italy be the only port of disembarkation and that it takes in all the migrants rescued at sea,” Italian defence minister Elisabetta Trenta said.

The Italian demand follows several instances where Italy has refused rescue ships to dock unless other EU countries committed to taking in the migrants on board. However, during the meeting, no other EU country offered to open its ports as an alternative to Italy for operation Sophia.

“Today was not a matter of pledging ports,” the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said, and added that there was still political will to find a solution.

TMP – 10/09/2018

Photo credit: Juergen Fuchs. Photo caption: Mario Kunasek, the Austrian defence minister.