VIENNA (AP) – Austria’s foreign minister called Monday for setting up mass holding camps in North Africa for migrants, a plan dismissed by his German counterpart as unrealistic.
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel of Germany and Austria’s Sebastian Kurz both praised the neighborly ties between their countries and joined in calls for reducing surplus EU bureaucracy while focusing on values of the 28-nation union.
But Gabriel, on his first trip to Austria as foreign minister, was blunt in rejecting Kurz’s vision of creating mass refugee centers in countries like Libya or Sudan “sooner rather than later.”
At a joint news conference, both also agreed on the need for a new formula that reduces child support payments from German and Austrian levels for workers coming from low-wage EU countries who opt to leave their children in their home nations.
“We don’t want to pay hundreds of millions of euros in family support for foreign children a year who don’t even live in Austria,” Kurz said. “It is unfair to pay out these sums to the same extent when the costs of living are substantially less elsewhere.”
Kurz is popular in Austria for his hard-line views on mass migration and has cited the success of the EU-Turkey deal in reducing the influx of migrants from outside Europe as something that can serve as a model for possible EU pacts with Libya and other North African countries.
Gabriel, however, suggested the comparison was flawed, arguing that the chaos and anarchy gripping Libya doomed such an agreement.
“We have a state in Turkey, whatever one’s opinion about it is,” he told reporters. “Not so in Libya.”
Gabriel also dismissed expectations that Tunisia would be able to host mass concentrations of migrants, warning that could be “destabilizing” in a North Africa country that is struggling to nurture its fragile democracy.