‘Totally unrealistic’: Austrian FM blasts EU refugee quota plan

© Leonhard Foeger
The plan on refugee quotas imposed by the EU is “totally unrealistic,” says Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz. He adds that migrants are not eager to stay in such European countries as Romania , Hungary or Poland, preferring Austria or Germany.

“I think the measure to distribute [some] 160,000 refugees throughout EU member states in two years is wrong… The European Union should no longer cling desperately to it [the refugee quota plan], [Europe] should say goodbye to it,” Kurz said in an interview with German Die Welt am Sonntag newspaper. 

According to the minister, the target of EU “is totally unrealistic.”

The distribution of refugees by EU quotas doesn’t function, because many countries are not ready to receive a high number of asylum seekers, he said.

“The debate on the distribution of refugees by quota may jeopardize the entire European Union. It is a dangerous [issue] that causes unrest, misunderstanding and hostilities.”

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In September 2015, EU member states adopted a two-year emergency relocation scheme which listed the specific share of asylum seekers each of the bloc’s states was to take in.

Kurz stressed that the situation with refugees in the EU is aggravated by the fact that migrants prefer certain countries to stay.

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“Another problem is that many refugees refuse to go to certain EU countries. Romania, for example, was also forced to create thousands of [EU refugee] quotas. But there are only a few hundred people willing to go to Romania.”

Poland and Hungary are also among those countries which are less attractive for refugees, while Germany, Austria and Sweden are a top demand, said Kurz in a Die Welt interview, a full version of which was seen by the Local

Kurz was speaking right ahead of Hungary’s referendum on EU refugee quotas. A few hours after his interview was released in German media, 98.3 percent of Hungarian voters who took part in the referendum rejected mandatory EU asylum seeker quotas.

Only 1.7 percent of the voters answered ‘Yes’ to the question “Do you want the European Union to be able to mandate the obligatory resettlement of non-Hungarian citizens into Hungary even without the approval of the National Assembly?”

But the turnout of 43.8 percent, or 3.6 million voters, meant that the referendum was declared invalid, as it failed to clear the key 50-percent threshold.

This is not the first time Austrian Foreign Minister is taking a harsh stance on EU policy towards refugees. In June this year he stated that the EU refugee and migration policy is not working and Europe “has lost control” over the situation.

In May, the Austrian federal chamber passed a law allowing the government to declare a state of emergency lasting up to six months, and extendable for another three, if the number of refugees applying for asylum in Austria exceeds the cap of 37,500 for the year. By the end of July, Austria had already received a total of 24,260 applications, an average of 3,000 per month, according to the estimates from Chancellory Minister Thomas Drozda.

In September, Vienna even threatened Hungary with “legal consequences” if it refuses to take back refugees under the Dublin Accord – the treaty which rules that migrants must be sent back to their initial point of entry to the EU.