Austria & Albania concerned about new Balkan migrant route – Warn Europe not to repeat past mistakes

Albanian Premier Rama and Austrian Chancellor Kurz in Vienna
Albanian Premier Rama and Austrian Chancellor Kurz in Vienna

Vienna, Austria | May 30 Tirana Echo) – Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has told Albanian Premier Edi Rama in Vienna that Austria will financially support Albania to curb illegal migrants attempting to pass through the small Balkan country towards Austria and other EU states.

The Austrian pledge comes after concerns that migrants from the middle east are now using the Albania corridor route to cross from Greece into other western EU countries.

We are now experiencing this new migrant route where smugglers are trying to get people from Greece into Albania and then off to Central Europe. Migrant numbers are increasing and we have to tackle this problem now, before it gets too big, as it was the case in 2015 and 2017,” – said Kurz during a press conference with Albanian prime minister Rama.

Kurz added that Austria will support Albania financially to ensure that migrants stay put in the Balkans.

The Prime Minister has asked me for support and I have pledged our financial support for Albania and other countries in the Balkans  in order to fight this illegal migration.” – added Kurz.

In response, Albanian Premier Edi Rama voiced his concerns over the rising migrant numbers and warned Europe must not repeat the 2015 mistakes.

We are seeing a worrying increasing influx of migrants which for the moment it totally under our control. However, we need a close and immediate cooperation in order to avoid the scenes of 2015. Be aware that the good weather factor is a contributing factor to increasing numbers of migrants and we have discussed with the Chancellor over the precise cooperation in order to take our responsibilities.” – said Rama

Rama pointed out that if in January 2017 there were only 162 illegal migrants in Albania, this year the number has risen to 2311.

Earlier last week, Austria’s Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) insisted on swift EU accession negotiations with Albania and Macedonia, after a recent European Commission report recommended the opening of negotiations with the two small Balkan countries.

Kurz spoke out after reports of France, Germany and the Netherlands unhappy with a further enlargement of the already troubled block, reconfirming the traditional Austrian line of firm support for the European integration of a region which lags behind Europe’s older states.

If you want to avoid conflicts in our neighborhood in the Western Balkans and help stabilize them, you must credibly offer the countries in the region a European perspective,” said the conservative politician of the “Welt am Sonntag” newspaper.

The latest meeting between Kurz and Rama confirms Austria’s fears of a new migrant crisis in the EU which might hit Austria before other central European countries which have already closed their doors.

The European Union has seen a rise of populist movements and increasing euro-skepticism following the dramatic numbers of asylum seekers in the past 3 years.

In 2015, the number of people applying for asylum in the EU peaked at 1.26 million, while over 2,257 people are thought to have lost their lives in the Mediterranean in the first six months of 2017 alone. In 2016 over 5,000 lives were estimated to be lost in the Mediterranean, and increase from the 3771 deaths in 2015.


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