Oct 18, 2018: First summit of Austria EU presidency all about immigration?
EUROPEAN UNION - Europe’s swerve to the right on immigration promises to steer the October and December EU summits in Brussels, which also will be grappling with the final Brexit deal.
Populism is blamed for anti-immigration sentiment and for Brexit, Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the bloc. USA Today explains the recent victory of populist leaders in several elections as a response to “voters’ nativist instincts on immigration, Islam, trade, jobs and law and order.”
In Austria, the summit host as EU president from July through December, recent elections suggest the country is in the vanguard of the populist movement and the growing crusade against immigration. Sebastian Kurz, the 32-year-old leader of the People’s Party that won power in 2017, and now prime minister, has announced new restrictions on immigration, a stricter stance on crime and terrorism, and limits on social benefits to immigrants. As foreign minister, he closed off the Austrian border to refugees in 2016 and passed the Integration Act of 2017 that banned the full face veil.
Britain’s Independent newspaper notes that the EU plan to relocate 160,000 refugees from Italy and Greece by Sep 2017 failed “amid waning political will to help those risking their lives to reach Europe.” There is no sign that the countries that have taken the hardest line on participating in the relocation agreement, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, will relent at the summits. Hungary, Slovakia and Poland have called for the relocation policy to be scrapped, and can expect support at the summits from a growing number of leaders because far-right influence in governments has grown on the back of the immigration crisis.
The Austria-hosted summits will answer the question of whether there will be any sign of the populist element in the final Brexit agreement. A hard-headed decision that favors EU coffers above all might be anticipated.