Refugee Crisis Disunity: A De Facto Solution Takes Shape in the Balkans

Published on Spiegel Online International, by Giorgos Christidis, Katrin Kuntz, Walter Mayr, Peter Müller, Jan Puhl and Mathieu von Rohr, Feb 26, 2016 (Photo Gallery).

Angela Merkel is still hoping for a European solution to the refugee crisis. But with patience running out, Austria has joined countries on the Balkan Route to impose Plan B. But with the closure of borders, the situation in Greece is becoming dangerous … //

… It has been a week of solo measures and heightened tensions within a deeply fractured Europe. On March 7, the EU will once again attempt to find a solution to the refugee crisis at a special summit meeting in Brussels. German Chancellor Angela Merkel continues to place her hopes on Turkey, with her plan calling for the country to stop the flow of refugees and even take some of them back. But at the same time, countries along the Balkan Route have begun taking measures of their own, with Austria leading the way.

(Map: the Balkan Route and alternatives).

Now that Vienna is only accepting 80 asylum applications per day at the Spielfeld border crossing with Slovenia — and now that other Balkan countries have constricted the refugee flow in response — migrants have begun backing up in Greece. In his interview, Defense Minister Doskozil makes no attempt to contradict the impression that exactly that outcome was intended. Currently, he says, his ministry is examining whether and how many soldiers should be sent to Macedonia to help the country secure its border with Greece. That border has been closed to Afghans since Monday, with only Syrians and Iraqis allowed to pass. On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, a total of only 150 refugees entered Macedonian territory. On Thursday morning, another 100 were allowed to pass, before Macedonia completely sealed off its border. When and whether it will be reopened is unclear.

Giving Austria the Middle Finger: … //
… A Miracle: … //
… Greece’s Closest Ally: … //
… Doing Germany’s Dirty Work: … //

… Displeasure with the Germans is growing for another reason as well: Even as Berlin is criticizing the measures that countries on the Balkan Route have taken, Germany has profited from them as well in the form of plunging numbers of refugees entering the country. “We are doing the dirty work for the Germans,” says one Eastern European EU diplomat.

Austrian Defense Minister Doskozil agrees. “Germany should be more grateful to us.” Austria, he says, is merely ensuring that countries along the Balkan Route are coordinating with one another. The criticism from Germany “is completely incomprehensible,” he says, adding that the refugees are being sent north in an orderly fashion. “There is an alternative,” he says. “We could just allow them all to haphazardly continue to Germany.”

(full text, links to related articles).


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