Erfurt, Germany – Austria needs to make the most of its ongoing EU presidency to reduce tensions across Europe, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Thursday during a speech to members of Germany’s main centre-right party.
Austria has a good chance at boosting ties due to its location in the centre of Europe and its ties to Eastern Europe, Kurz told about 3,000 members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) at a gathering in the eastern German state of Thuringia.
Europe is tearing at the seams
He said one of the reasons Europe is tearing at the seams is because the vast influx of migrants in recent years, which has taxed several countries’ ability to provide for them, as well as rousing animosity between pro and anti-immigrant groups.
It has all shown “that Europe is reaching its boundaries when there are no functioning external boundaries,” he added.
An EU summit in June helped to set a new “trend” in Europe because people are now thinking about the situation differently, Kurz said, adding that there is now a focus on beefing up Frontex, the EU’s joint border protection agency.
Efforts are also under way to support Greece and Italy, which take the bulk of incoming migrants and have often felt abandoned by the rest of Europe.
Way to end the dying
“We are now seeing that fewer people are taking this path. We’ll find a way to end the dying,” he said, a reference to the great numbers of migrants who die in dangerous Mediterranean crossings.
The event used the same motto as that of Austria’s rotating EU presidency: “A Europe that protects.”
Kurz, a 31-year-old conservative and one of Europe’s most vocal anti-immigration leaders, has advocated for stronger border security as the European Union grapples with the continued arrival of migrants and the management of its internal and external borders.
The Thuringia CDU chapter said it had endeavoured for two years to secure Kurz’s visit.
Austria has for the last eight months been led by a coalition of Kurz’s conservative People’s Party and the far-right Freedom Party.
Kurz has positioned his right-wing government as a bridge-builder as Western Europe faces disputes with Central European countries and Russia over issues that include migration and sanctions on Moscow over the Ukraine conflict.
It was Kurz’s only event during his visit to Germany. He is expected to return in October, when the Christian Social Union, the Bavaria-only sister party of the CDU, seeks to hold on to its majority in the Bavarian legislature in local elections.