The Austrian Chancellor has called for European Union (EU) countries who refuse to take in migrants to have their funding cut as punishment – despite his own country being one of three to refuse its migrant quota.
Speaking to Die Welt ahead of a summit of EU leaders taking place this week, Christian Kern said he would push for countries who refuse to play an equitable part in the EU project to lose a portion of their subsidy payments as a consequence, citing the mandated quota of migrants from Italy and Greece as one area in which countries are not pulling their weight.
“The money from the EU budget must be spread more equitably among the member countries in the future,” Kern said.
“If countries continue to avoid resolving the issue of migration, or tax dumping at the expense of their neighbours, they will not be able to receive net new payments of billions from Brussels.”
Accusing some member states of a piecemeal approach to solidarity, demanding it on issues that suit them such as economic development, security, and sanctions against Russia, Kern added: “Selective solidarity should in the future also lead to selective payments among the net payers. Solidarity is not a one-way street.”
So far just 13,546 of the 160,000 migrants currently marooned in Greece and Italy have been relocated to other member states under the solidarity measures drawn up by the Commission.
According to a Commission press release dated 2 March, three EU countries have refused to take part in the programme at all: Hungary, Poland – and Austria.
Meanwhile, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Slovakia are all listed as taking part only on “a limited basis”, putting them in the firing line for migration-linked budget cuts.
The Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec has dismissed Kern’s demand as “nonsense”, insisting the Czech Republic is fulfilling its obligations through providing aid to the migrants’ countries of origin.
“The Czech Republic is one of the countries that are most active within the refugee crisis and it consistently provides aid in the areas of conflicts and in other countries,” he said in a press release, the Prague Daily Monitor has reported.
If enacted, Kern’s idea would hit Poland the hardest as the top net beneficiary of EU contributions, receiving approximately €9.5 billion a year, followed by the Czech Republic (€5.7 billion), Romania (€5.2 billion), and Hungary (€4.6billion).
The imminent departure of the UK from the EU threatens to blow a massive hole in the bloc’s finances which the Commission is keen to fill by calling on net donors to increase their payments. But Kern’s keenness to slash funding to beneficiary states is indicative of the willingness among donor countries to take on the challenge.
“Austria’s goal as a net payer is clear,” Kern said. “When Britain departs, our transfers to Brussels must not increase further.”