Austrian minister says refugee cap is 'wake-up call' for EU

Austrian foreign minister says cap on refugees is 'wake-up call' for EU to find common solution to resolve its refugee crisis

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Austrian soldiers are building a fence to improve the procedure for arriving refugees at the border between Slovenian and Austria in Spielfeld, Austria, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015

Vienna's decision to cap its asylum seeker intake serves as a "wake-up call" to push Europe to find a common solution to resolve its refugee crisis, Austria's foreign minister said Friday.

Refugee hotspot Austria said Wednesday it would seek to cap the number of asylum seekers at 37,500 in 2016, less than half of the 90,000 claims received last year.

"Our national action is above all a wake-up call to Brussels," Sebastian Kurz told Bild newspaper.

"I believe that in the long-term there is a European solution. But as long as that is not there, we have to protect ourselves," he said.

In a separate interview with Germany daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Kurz said he believed Austria's decision to limit the number of refugees "will have a positive impact".

"Pressure will now grow on Europe to find a common solution," he said.

Kurz argued that as long as countries like Austria and Germany are willing to keep a door open to refugees, other EU nations will have no incentive to budge.

"Many countries are only affected as transit countries. For Greece, for instance, the situation has been comfortable. That's why I'm not surprised that we have not been successful in finding a European solution," he said.

"Only when this issue hits these countries hard, because they have become destination countries, then would there be a greater interest in a common European accord."

Austria is itself a key transit country for hundreds of thousands of refugees entering the European Union, with many headed for Germany which took in 1.1 million asylum seekers in 2015.