And in doing so, Austria joins the ranks of the four Eastern/Central European Visegrad countries of Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovakia as well as the recently elected government in Italy, putting the brakes on the disastrous mass Muslim migration surge begun in 2015.
After the elections in the fall of 2017, the Conservative Party (OVP), led by Sebastian Kurz, the youngest leader in Europe, and the Extreme Right Party (FPO) leader Heinz-Christian Strache, both strong anti-Muslim migration proponents, formed a coalition government.
Express Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has been at the forefront of calls to shift the focus, from relocating Muslim asylum seekers inside the EU to defending Europe’s outer borders. Since taking over the EU presidency, which rotates every six months, on July 1, Austria has been seen to push harder policies on immigration to Europe.
The Chancellor of Germany, 64, and the Chancellor of Austria, 32, are at odds over how to deal with the migrant crisis, facilitated by Angela Merkel in 2015. At the height of the crisis, Mr Kurz advocated for closing the Balkan route, one of the most common ways for migrants to arrive in Europe.
Merkel refuses to discuss the possibility of a European limit for refugees or a harder stance on immigrants claiming asylum in the EU and continues to support the policy of open borders.
Austria’s coalition government, made up of the conservatives and the far right, is implementing restrictive immigration policies. As well as keeping tight control of the borders, the government has cut the number of German classes for refugees and asylum seekers. And if they don’t speak German, they get significantly reduced welfare payments.
BBC The tents of Spielfeld lie empty today, and deserted containers are still equipped with computers and finger-printing machines. They were last used on 6 March 2016, just after the Balkan route for refugees was closed, says Leo Josefus of Austrian police.
Some 90,000 mostly Muslims applied for asylum in Austria in 2015, about 1% of the country’s population. But with the recent election came a coalition of conservative and far right parties, the number of Muslim asylum seekers to Austria has dropped like a stone.
A man named Friedrich says migration and integration would never work. It’s good we have this new government. The left-wing government we had before was a catastrophe,” he said. “We are taking far too many people in, and they don’t want to integrate. They want to live at the cost of the taxpayer.”
Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, spokesman for the Austrian presidency, says they hope to see progress in Salzburg on the issue of strengthening Frontex, the European coast and border guard.