Austria Says Turkey Is ‘Blackmailing’ EU With Refugees

VIENNA (AFP) — Austria’s right-wing Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Tuesday slammed Turkey for trying to “blackmail” the EU by opening its borders to thousands of refugees seeking to flee to Europe.

“It is an attack by Turkey against the European Union and Greece. People are being used to pressure Europe. … The EU must not be susceptible to blackmail,” Kurz told reporters.

Refugees approach the Pazarakule border gate in Turkey at the Greek border on Sunday, trying to get to Europe. (AP photo/Emre Tazegul)

Turkey has given a green light to refugees on its territory, many of them displaced Syrians, to leave for the European Union, in defiance of a 2016 deal to keep them in.

Kurz accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of luring people with “false promises” and transporting them to the Greek border, from where they are seeking to enter Europe, using them as a “weapon” to pressure the EU.

Kurz said it was a “test” for the EU to see whether it can protect its borders, saying Austria stood ready to support Greece and any other countries which may face an “onslaught.”

“I can guarantee you one thing: If the outer borders of the EU don’t work, then Europe without (inner) borders is history,” he said.

“We must together make sure that year 2015 doesn’t repeat itself,” he said, referring to a surge in people entering the EU to seek asylum five years ago.

Kurz in January formed a government with the Greens after his coalition with the far right broke apart after 1½ years when a corruption scandal engulfed his junior partner.

Kurz has promised to maintain his hardline stance on immigration even within the new coalition, with the Greens accepting it so far in exchange for being able to push their climate agenda.

On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel described Turkey’s move as “unacceptable” and EU immigration commissioner Margaritis Schinas said no one could “blackmail or intimidate the EU.”

Ankara’s move comes amid intense fighting in the Syrian region of Idlib between pro-government forces backed by Russian and jihadists and Ankara-backed rebels.

© Agence France-Presse

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