Foreign minister on the risk area Vienna, his “shouting” -sayers in the distribution of refugees and the costs of repatriation.
Austria continues to classify Spain with travel warning level 4, in Denmark Austria and in Germany Vienna as a risk area. Is that the “new normal”?
Alexander Schallenberg: I hope not, but the travel warnings are necessary because we are dealing with a situation in a number of European countries that suggests a second wave. It remains what I have been saying for weeks and months: Every trip is associated with a residual risk.
Conversely, will Austria also set individual countries to a higher travel warning level again?
It is quite possible. We are constantly checking the number of infections. We are increasingly observing the development that we are seeing in Austria in other countries. Travel warnings could also be issued in the near future. The travel warning that is given to us may be like a cold shower, but it can also be seen as a wake-up call. We all have to show discipline again, both privately and professionally, because we have to do everything together to prevent a second lockdown on the European continent.
Many nurses come from Bulgaria and Romania – are there further travel restrictions to be feared to the chagrin of the nursing staff?
Our policy has always been: Our borders are not completely closed. That means: transit, commuting and freight traffic were always allowed. We always do everything that is necessary to guarantee the highest possible level of protection without bringing the economy to a standstill. Just this week I met with the Foreign Ministers of the Central Five (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Austria; note) discussed that the experiences of March and April should not repeat themselves and that discussions about commuters, harvest workers and carers should not start all over again.
Germany’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is “disappointed with Austria”. Political observers speculate that Germany’s classification of Vienna as a high-risk area is a push back for Austria’s behavior in relation to the migration issue and in terms of payment behavior – keyword “thrifty four”. Is this interpretation wrong?
It’s a euphemistic expression. Nothing is further from reality than this interpretation. She’s completely pulled by the hair, perhaps the wishful thinking of some.
You had to cancel a trip to Greece because of a Covid case. Will it be made up?
In any case – I very much regret this short-term cancellation. The situation in the eastern Mediterranean remains tense, if not explosive. We will deal precisely with this on Monday in the Council of Foreign Ministers. It is important that in this situation, which can ultimately only be resolved at the negotiating table, we show the greatest possible solidarity with Greece and Cyprus. It is not acceptable to use warships to try to create facts in the eastern Mediterranean.
Change of subject to Moria and the admission of underage refugees. The fact that you spoke of “shouting” during the distribution made it to the headline. Do you regret the sentence?
We should be less concerned with semantic questions and try more to do our utmost to help people. The decision for me is that Austria has always been, is and will always show solidarity. We help concretely. Interior Minister Nehammer was in Greece this week with 55 tons of relief supplies – heated tents for 2,000 people, blankets, mattresses, hygiene kits and so on. That is concrete help as we understand it. Instead of continuing to talk about a distribution, we should take precisely those measures that specifically improve the living conditions of those affected on site.
Is an alliance of EU states that do not accept refugees conceivable – analogous to the “frugal four”?
The national debate completely ignores the fact that a majority of countries, including Denmark and Sweden, act in the same way as we do, and only a minority of countries are discussing the admission of migrants. A look outside the box does no harm in the discussion here.
You will meet your counterparts in Brussels on Monday and the EU will discuss the migration pact on Wednesday. What can and what must finally be decided there?
We have a lot of issues in our immediate neighborhood and potential sources of fire that will be high on the agenda for the coming week. There is, for example, a very tense situation between Turkey and the EU states Greece and Cyprus. Our goal here must be that the Eastern Mediterranean does not become the South China Sea. We also have the difficult situation with Russia after the poison attack against Navalny and the developments in Belarus.
But back to the migration pact …
I don’t expect any decisions next week. It is important that the Commission will present a new proposal on migration and asylum policy at the end of the month. We all have to be aware: If we want a migration and asylum policy that deserves the name, then we will not move if we only deal with sub-areas. A holistic approach is required that includes both relations with third countries and external border protection. Only then will we come to a solution. We have come a long way in the past and I am therefore in good spirits that the Commission proposal is one that will serve as a basis for discussion.
With the AUA, the federal government carried out the largest repatriation of the Second Republic. How much did this one-off campaign cost in spring? Six million euros were reported.
The final costs are not yet available. The reason is that we applied for EU co-financing for some of the flights. That goes up to 75 percent. This settlement is still pending. As long as the response from Brussels has not yet been received, I cannot give a reliable number.