Europe To Uphold Refugee Agreement With Turkey, Says Austrian Chancellor

Europe To Uphold Refugee Agreement With Turkey, Says Austrian Chancellor

 The European Union needs to help prospective member Serbia deal with refugees and migrants stranded ahead of hard-to-penetrate Hungarian and Croatian borders - which are also the EU frontier - closed nearly a year ago, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said on a visit to Belgrade on Friday (February 17).

"That (closing of borders) must not lead to Serbia becoming a parking place for refugees … I'm convinced that we'll also have to increase the financial effort here - there is a certain disparity, because the question of managing migration movements does not hinge on the question if someone is a member of the EU or not," Kern said after Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said Belgrade expects additional EU assistance to deal with the migrants.

The key to reducing pressure is however not just upholding a deal with Turkey to keep refugees, but expand the policy through similar arrangements with northern African countries, he said, adding that all else is just "battling symptoms."

"We all have the greatest interest to keep the agreement with Turkey standing, that is very important for us. We also know it is necessary in the future to secure agreements similar to the one (we have) with Turkey with other, northern African countries," Kern said.

Countries along the so-called Balkan route closed their borders to refugees and migrants nearly a year ago, after more than 1 million people passed from Turkey, across Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary or Croatia and Slovenia.

Austria is the first of the wealthy European countries on their path. Many migrants from Africa are also arriving across the Mediterranean and through Italy, again eventually trying to reach wealthy parts of EU through and including Austria.