By Stefan J. Bos
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in a joint statement with two far-right cabinet members that Germany should clarify its stance on migration.
He spoke after German Chancellor Merkel reached a deal on migration with her rebellious interior minister, Horst Seehofer, defusing a bitter row that had threatened to end her government. He had even offered to resign without such an agreement.
Under the new deal Merkel's CDU party and its traditional Bavaria state ally CSU called for "transit centers" on the German-Austrian border.
Merkel told reporters that migrants who previously applied for asylum in another European Union country would be returned there from those centers under as-yet unconcluded agreements with other European governments. "We want to install national measures yet at the same time cooperate in partnership with the countries of origin and other nations," he added.
In cases where the country concerned refuses, migrants would be turned back at the border " by an agreement" with Austria.
German Minister Seehofer seemed pleased with the compromise. He said: "after intensive discussions between CDU and CSU we have reached a clear agreement on how we can in future prevent illegal migration on the border between Austria and Germany ."
But in neighboring Austria, leaders aren't pleased with the compromise.
Austrian Chancellor Kurz warned that Vienna may be forced to protect its borders, further undermining the passport-free travel Schengen Zone of the European Union.
He mentioned especially its southern borders with Italy and Slovenia, though he did not rule out stepping up surveillance at the Austrian-German border as well.
Kurz’s conservatives won last year’s parliamentary election with a hard line on immigration. It has pledged to prevent any repeat of the 2015-2016 migration crisis in which Austria took in more than 1 percent of its population in asylum seekers. More than a million crossed its territory into Germany.
In the first five months of this year, roughly 4,600 “unauthorized entries” were recorded at Germany’s border with Austria. Of those, nearly two and a half thousand people were sent back to Austria, according to authorities.