Austrian Defence Minister suggests army guarding on EU's external borders

Austrian Defence Minister suggests army guarding on EU's external borders

On August 29-30 and on 30-31, during the informal EU Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministers meetings respectively, in Vienna, the Austrian Immigration Initiative will present its proposals on migration.

As published in the Austrian newspaper Die Presse in an article by Wolfgang Böhm entitled "Soldiers at the EU's external borders", Austria's Minister of Defence Mario Kunasek intends to present to his counterparts the idea of ​​auxiliary operations of the army to guard the external borders the EU, as well as in third countries.

What the Austrian Minister of Defence is expected to present at the EU Defense Ministers' Council in Vienna on 29-30 August is not new. Part of this proposal has already been elaborated by Kunasek's predecessor, Hans Peter Doskozil, who wanted to promote EU military assistance since 2017.

According to the proposal, future soldiers from all EU Member States will have to support FRONTEX with logistics, transport and recognition business. This will be done in specific parts of the EU's external borders by members of the national armed forces. In addition, Mario Kunasek's plan includes the possibility of direct involvement of soldiers in border controls to tackle illegal immigration.

In this context, it is proposed to extend the EU's common policy on defence and security. Alongside international peace enforcement and peacekeeping operations, these responsibilities should be extended to tackle illegal immigration and border protection. However, until now the involvement of police officers with military powers has been a controversial issue in the EU. Doskozil's counterparts, when he was serving as Minister of Defence, were not thrilled with his idea of ​​civil-military co-operation, particularly with regard to border protection. Because of this resistance, Mr Kunasek intends to propose the support of national border controls by soldiers until the EU's external border protection becomes fully functional. This explains why bilateral controls should not be abandoned, but instead be reinforced by the military. Individual Member States and the European Commission consider that internal border controls cannot be continued and argue that refugee flows have already declined significantly.

In order to improve EU border protection, Mr Kunasek's plan provides auxiliary operations for the most affected EU Member States. As well, co-operating third countries should also be supported in improving the protection of their borders. In addition, in order to reduce the migration flows from North Africa, Mr Kunasek will propose similar military aid operations in the region. For the moment, whether European soldiers will only take care of the safety of asylum centres there or if they will further hamper migrant movements remains fluid. Such operations will take place only with the consent of the countries concerned. At the same time, it is intended to protect the border along the Western Balkan corridor and to combat illegal immigration there, too.

Shortly before the beginning of September, the Austrian Presidency is trying to make concrete proposals on the issue of immigration at the first two EU Councils. This is because the EU Council of Foreign Ministers this week will deal, among other things, with the situation in the countries of origin and transit of refugees, including Syria and Libya.

At the EU Foreign Ministers meeting on Friday, August 31, representatives of the Western Balkan candidate countries such as Albania, Montenegro, fYROMacedonia and Serbia have been invited to attend as well as a representative of Turkey.... / IBNA

Main Photo: Austria's Minister of Defence, Mario Kunasek

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