European leaders from countries along the Balkan migrant route have gathered in Vienna with the aim of pushing other EU member states to take faster action over the migration crisis.
Austria was a key player in closing off the route. Now, just over six months later, countries at the summit agreed to focus on more easily achievable ways of preventing another influx of people.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was keen to highlight their shared objectives.
“All have agreed, that the EU-Turkey refugee deal and its implementation are essential,” she said.
“For this to happen, it is necessary to sit down with Turkey and discuss the final conditions, which have not yet been fulfilled. But, it is also necessary, for Greece, in particular, to enforce the implementation of the one-in-one-out system, to send back migrants who arrive illegally.”
Greece was angered by the Balkan countries’ move to introduce stricter border restrictions, which left thousands stranded on its territory. A deal between the EU and Turkey has eased the situation, both politically and in terms of migrant flow.
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban called for cooperation among the countries at the summit to keep the route closed, regardless of whether or not the deal with Turkey holds.
“We should have a cooperation among our countries in order to keep the Balkan route closed if the deal with Turkey holds, but even if the deal with Turkey for some reason or another would become void,” he said.
Ankara is calling for visa-free EU travel for Turks before that agreement is fully put in place. One of the goals agreed at Saturday’s talks (September 24) was to work towards full implementation of the accord.
Those present at the Vienna talks agreed to push ahead with ensuring EU member states meet pre-existing commitments, including reinforcing the Frontex border force.
Orban said Greece is currently unable to protect its land border with Turkey and said, if the EU-Ankara deal fails, a second line of defence should be in place to hold up another potential surge of migrants.
‘Refugee city’ in Libya
Orban also called for a huge “refugee city” and asylum processing centre to be set up on the Libyan coast.
“If we cannot keep Libya together, if we cannot stabilise it, then we cannot create that gigantic refugee city at the Mediterranean coast of Libya where we have to send back all the migrants who came to Europe illegally,” he said.
Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said it’s hoped progress made on the migration question will help bring the EU together on some of the issues currently dividing it.
Head of Caritas Austria, Michael Landau told euronews international solidarity is key to resolving the crisis.
“We don’t have a refugee crisis in Europe at the moment, we have a solidarity crisis. And if we succeed in strengthening solidarity, people are ready to act as one and in a good and human way.”