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    Migrants wait to cross the border from Slovenia into Spielfeld in Austria, in this February 16, 2016 file photo.

    Austria Fails to Reach Solid Agreement at EU Meeting on Tougher Migration Policy

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    Austria has advanced its tough policy on migration during a meeting of European Union interior ministers in the city of Innsbruck but failed to reach firm agreements. According to media reports, Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl said that a very broad consensus on the need for protecting the EU’s external borders has been reached.

    Sputnik discussed this with Anna Triandafyllidou, a professor of global governance at the European University Institute in Florence.

    Sputnik: The three interior ministers of Austria,  Germany and Italy have agreed to form what they've called the "axis of the willing" to further toughen their migration policy. Do you think this effort will be successful?

    Anna Triandafyllidou: I don't think so, I think, first of all, this effort is more for internal consumption, for their own voters than it is a real effort, realistic and, of course, respectful of human rights, immigration policy and border control policy for the EU. I think we heard a lot of big statements that we know are far from being implementable; they cannot be implemented.

    Sputnik: What's your take on this? Obviously, there's a lot of pressure, specifically with Italy being the main port of entry for migrants coming across the Mediterranean sea; is this sort of policy you think and believe is workable? Or is it just something that the EU is not going to accept?

    Anna Triandafyllidou: First of all, Italy is the main port of entry, but it is no longer a big port of entry. After the agreements that the Italian government and the then Italian interior minister in the summer of 2017 struck with the Libyan coalition government, one of the two governments that control Libya.

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    So they struck this agreement that was basically co-opting the militias into the coast guard and detention center border guards and the flow [of migrants] has [come] down by 80%. So in 2018, Italy has received 12,000 people. Now 12,000 people in a country of 60 million and in a European Union of 500 million, it's not a big number and it's not comparable to the previous period, so I there is no emergency.

    Sputnik: One of the proposals agreed-upon are these "disembarkation platforms" which are expected to be located in North Africa. However, Morocco and Tunisia have already refused to host them; do you think that any North African country would agree to do so? If no, what options will be left for the European Union?

    Anna Triandafyllidou: I think such centers are very hard to implement in respect of international law and European law and the only countries that I could possibly imagine that they would accept them is Niger and Mali. Niger and Mali are two of the poorest countries in the world, they're not coastal countries, of course, on the Mediterranean, they're south of the North African countries.

    We know that Morocco has refused, and Morocco clearly is a hegemonic country in that region and it's a country that is increasingly looking towards Africa rather than the EU. Egypt has sort of refused, saying it wouldn't accept centers that violate its constitutional principles etc. Libya is not a country to put these platforms, I cannot imagine any EU member state government would suggest that Libya is a country for that. Tunisia would not accept, like Morocco, so I don't see these platforms as feasible.

    The other thing that we know is from the summer of 2016, the EU has tried to implement this compacts on migration with target countries, which include not only Niger and Mali, these are the only ones with which these compacts have been signed, but also with Nigeria, with Ethiopia, and we know Nigeria has refused. A compact on migration is not something as harsh as a "relocation platform" or "disembarkation," as they call it.

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    A platform is something softer, which is about: "I'll give you more money and development, I'll make more investment and trade concessions and you'll help me manage migration transit, migration through your country, or origin migration from your country."

    We know Nigeria has no interest because Nigeria is a big country with important flows of people and goods with the other West African countries; it has no interest in estranging itself from its own region because the EU wants to externalize its borders. It strikes me that these proposals seem to completely ignore the socioeconomic and geopolitical dynamics of these regions.

    Sputnik: So you're saying there's absolutely no potential for this measure to work, it's totally unworkable?

    Anna Triandafyllidou: I can only foresee that they would impose them on Niger and Mali, with very important side effects of both these centers not being up to [the] standard of international law and the Geneva Convention and also creating a regional hub there, and then opening up new routes for smuggling migrants towards Europe or elsewhere.

    READ MORE: Consensus on Migration in Europe 'Unlikely Any Time Soon' — Professor

    Sputnik: Let's get back to the main point with regard to Austria. Austria's most hardline executives did not receive much support with regard to this strategy; what's the chance that Vienna will be able to push forward those measures during the EU presidency, do you have any thoughts on that?

    Anna Triandafyllidou: Well it's likely that they're going to spend the next six months talking about these centers. If we're going to see them implemented, I think it's a different matter altogether. There again I think it's a matter more of internal politics, I think that German internal politics are very important because as we know there's a divergence of views between the chancellor and the minister of interior and so there, too, I can see it as an issue for internal electoral consumption.

    The same for Italy, it's a way for the Lega Party to stay up on the media headlines. I think for Austria, it's a way for the chancellor to show that they're different. But what strikes me with migration policy is what we hear is often for internal consumption and not really related to addressing the challenges and the challenges are important and we need to address them, but often the statements are just like fireworks.

    The views and opinions expressed by Anna Triandafyllidou do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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