Austria backs Bavaria with border exercise

Austria backs Bavaria with border exercise

Austria has carried out a large-scale exercise on its southern border with Slovenia over fears of a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis.

Two Black Hawk helicopters monitored the mountainous border as police cadets pretended to be migrants trying to cross. 

More than 500 police officers and 220 soldiers took part at the Spielfeld border as migrants crossing the Mediterranean causing conflict within the EU ahead of the leaders’ summit tomorrow (Thursday). 

In 2015 Austria took in one of the biggest shares of asylum seekers in Europe, as a proportion of its 8.8-million population.

“A state which can’t protect its borders when needed loses its credibility,” said Austrian interior minister Herbert Kickl, who oversaw the drills with defence minister Mario Kunasek. Both ministers are from the extremist Freedom party, which acquired key portfolios as the junior partner in the coalition government. 

It was the first exercise for the new 600-strong police border force, called Puma. 

In the summer of 2015, several thousand migrants passed through Spielfield on the Balkan route towards northern Europe.

The police say almost no migrants are currently crossing there, but Austria says it is preventing migrants being stuck there if Germany closes its border. 




Earlier this month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel blocked plans by her interior minister, Horst Seehofer, the leader of her Bavarian CSU allies, to turn away migrants at the German border who are already registered in other EU countries.

In response, Seehofer threatened to take unilateral action if Merkel failed to find a European solution by the end of this week’s EU summit in Brussels. 

Seehofer said this month: “If there is no European solution, we will have to act nationally. If the chancellor succeeds in finding a European solution, no-one will be happier than me.”

The move was a new challenge to Merkel’s authority and has left her in a perilous political position. 

In an unprecedented move, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, 33, is due to speak alongside Seehofer during the campaign ahead of the October 14 Bavarian election, instead of Merkel. 

But Seehofer’s move might not succeed. 

Approval ratings published in a poll this week suggested Bavarians were more satisfied with Merkel than Seehofer, whose campaign appears to have damaged his party. 

Markus Söder, the CSU prime minister, said to be one of the driving forces in the attack on Merkel, also had an approval rating below that of the chancellor.



Austria flexes its muscles on the border. Picture credit: YouTube

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