The Austrian interior minister inspected troops and police and looked on as the newly formed border patrol unit held exercises to demonstrate their readiness Tuesday, in a move that has been interpreted by some as a political challenge to German leader Angela Merkel.
The newly formed PUMA “border protection force”, a creation of populist Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, clashed with police cadets playing the part of “strangers” as they attempted to penetrate the border for the exercise. The 600-strong force was backed up by 200 Austrian soldiers, and can be mobilised to any border trouble-spot within 24 hours, reports Austria’s best selling newspaper Kronen Zeitung.
Working in close cooperation with local police forces, the new border unit could also be deployed to airports if needed.
Speaking as he inspected the new force, Kickl told reporters: “A state that cannot protect its borders effectively in the event of [a crisis] loses its credibility.”
Breitbart London reported in January when the new force was first announced, and Interior Minister Kickl said of the need for PUMA: “We already have effective monitoring that works well. But what certainly cannot happen is a repetition of the year 2015”, making reference to the high-water mark of the migrant crisis.
The combative populist also took aim at the left-wing intellectual elite who have ruled Europe since the mid 20th century. Using a nickname well known on the continent for the post-war born generation of left-wing radicals the ’68ers’, Kickl said: “The project of the ’68ers failed. We are now experiencing a counter-movement, not only in Austria. And that’s just as well. For me, this is a return to normality… The 68ers tried to be destructive in the name of progress. Consider the erosion of state identity or the identity of the family network.”
“This government stands for an offensive counter-proposal. The theses of the ’68ers have turned out to be wrong. The need for orientation, security, and homeland has been put back in a positive light by us,” he said.
Mainstream media outlets including Britain’s Daily Telegraph frames the exercise in the context of the increasingly fragile leadership of Angela Merkel, who failed to extract any meaningful promises at an EU migrant crisis conference at the weekend and now faces a crunch deadline Thursday.
If she is unable to make immigration concessions and please her more socially conservative coalition partner Horst Seehofer, the German government could collapse — and bring the end of the Merkel era which has dominated German politics for 13 years.
In a further sign of trouble, Dr Merkel said Tuesday that she did not foresee any new migrant deal this week — signalling that she would be disappointing her coalition partners. At the very least, a failure to compromise could see Bavarian leader Seehofer launch unilateral action and close his southern border — defying the direction of Berlin, and possibly plunging Federal Germany into crisis.
Austria is one of a rapidly growing group of populist, anti-mass migration European governments which are increasingly bucking the globalist European Union trend. While Hungary and Poland — both scarred by 20th Communist occupation and determined to preserve their own national identities — are the most established of these populist powers, recent elections in Austria and Italy have returned populist governments and others may follow suit.
These changes have not been without resistance from the European Union, however, as the leading powers of the bloc — France and Germany — have repeatedly vowed to punish “selfish” nations who fail to act with sufficient solidarity.