Migration to the EU: Balkan route closed again?

Hungary, Austria and Serbia want to massively limit illegal entry into the EU with joint measures. Brussels is too passive, so the criticism.

Armed with helmets, batons and shields, three border police officers patrol a barbed wire fence with a watchtower

Migrants not very welcome: Hungarian border with Serbia near Roszke Photo: Tibor Rosta/ap

VIENNA taz | Three men, one plan. Hungary’s capital Budapest was the scene of a three-country summit against migration on Monday. Host Viktor Orbán received his neighbors Karl Nehammer from Austria and Aleksandar Vučić from Serbia. At a press conference, they then announced how they intend to restrict illegal entry into the EU.

Serbia plays a key role in this, allowing travelers from India and Tunisia to enter the country without a visa. Nehammer (ÖVP) announced that the Serbian President had promised to “align the Serbian visa rules with those of the EU”. And by the end of the year. Vučić said: “Serbia should not be exploited by those who do not come for professional reasons, but for illegal migration to the west.”

In Austria, Indian citizens have become the largest population group in recent months whose relatives have been apprehended at the border and have applied for asylum. According to media reports, most of them want to look for work in southern or western Europe. Many have also worked in agriculture in Spain or Italy. Although political persecution is also the order of the day in India and the Maghreb, practice shows that the chances of asylum for people from these regions are slim.

Austrian politicians had repeatedly complained about the entry rules of the non-EU country Serbia and blamed them for the fact that 56,147 asylum applications were registered in Austria by the end of August. Compared to the same period of the previous year, this means an increase of 195 percent.

revival of tourism

In addition to Indians and Tunisians, nationals of other third countries can also enter Serbia without a visa. This liberal entry policy, which is intended to stimulate tourism, contradicts the treatment of refugees by the Serbian police.

As long as the EU does not intervene efficiently, we must help ourselves. Austria is therefore doing everything possible to protect itself. We want to take further measures with Serbia and Hungary. If the Serbian and Hungarian borders are protected, our border is also protected,” Nehammer told the Austrian press before the meeting, which had questioned the democratic quality of the interlocutors. Further talks in this composition and meetings at official level are planned.

Austria has been sending police officers to the Hungarian-Serbian border for years to help intercept people smugglers. Their number is now increased from 50 to 70. Hungary has already reported 182,000 people apprehended at the Serbian border this year. Volunteers from Serbia keep reporting illegal pushbacks.

Orbán defended the three countries going it alone with the lack of EU support for his migration policy: “Help has never come from Brussels. Rules are imposed on us there that are alien to life in this corner of the world. If we apply our rules, we will be dragged before the European Court of Justice.”

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