Merkel discusses Balkan migrant route in Vienna

German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with leaders of several southern European countries in Austria's capital Vienna to discuss policies aimed at completely stopping the flow of refugees through Balkan countries.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Left to Right: Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Austrian chancellor Christian Kern pose for a photo after a meeting on the Balkan migrant route into the EU in Vienna on September 24, 2016.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, hurt by a string of dismal election results blamed on her refugee policy, was in Vienna on Saturday for talks with leaders of countries along the Balkan migrant route.

They included Hungary's premier Victor Orbán, scornful of Merkel's "open-door" stance, Alexis Tsipras of Greece, home to 60,000 stranded migrants, and Boyko Borisov of newly under-pressure Bulgaria.

"We want to stop illegal immigration while living up to our humanitarian responsibilities," Merkel said after the talks.

Leaders of countries along the Balkan migrant route and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel wait ahead a meeting in Vienna on September 24, 2016.

"It is necessary to get agreements with third countries, especially in Africa but also Pakistan and Afghanistan... so that it becomes clear that those with no right to stay in Europe can go back to their home countries," she told reporters.

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said that the aim of the talks, also attended by top EU officials, was to "accelerate" momentum towards ending Europe's worst migration crisis since 1945.

He said that this included "massively improving" the security of the EU's outer borders, more efforts to look after refugees in the region they come from and, longer term, a "Marshall Plan" for Africa.

Austrian chancellor Christian Kern (L) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel talk ahead a meeting of leaders of countries along the Balkan migrant route into the EU in Vienna on September 24, 2016.

"At the moment there is a range of individual measures but no common European line," Kern told the Kleine Zeitung daily.

Last year hundreds of thousands of people, many fleeing the Syrian war, trekked up from Greece through the western Balkans northwards, particularly into Austria, Germany and Scandinavia.

Populist parties across Europe have stoked concerns about the new arrivals to gain support, not least Alternative for Germany (AfD). On Monday Merkel said the influx could have been better handled.

AFP, TRTWorld and agencies