Austria's Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz on Monday said in Sarajevo that European Union member states, including his country, did not have the capacity to receive as large a number of refugees as they did in 2015, underscoring that Macedonia cannot manage such a large influx of refugees alone and that the key to the problem lies in Greece.
He called for cooperation of all countries affected by the migrant crisis in an effort to effectively control that problem whereby averting any possible destabilisation of the western Balkans.
Sarajevo is Kurz's first stop on his regional tour of Balkan states affected by the migrant crisis, however, his talks with his hosts in the Bosnia and Herzegovina capital were dominated by European integration and bilateral relations.
Kurz told reporters that the refugee crisis was a problem for all EU member states and the western Balkans and that they had to act in unison, above all to prevent the uncontrolled influx of economic migrants.
We have to limit the inflow of refugees. Last year we received 90,000 people in Austria and this year we cannot. We are grateful to countries such as Macedonia for their cooperation however, unfortunately there has not been any progress in Greece, Kurz said, adding that it was unrealistic to expect Macedonia to manage the problem alone.
He added that the Greek government was not prepared to accept assistance from the EU to resolve the migrant crisis. Greece is the key to the problem, the Austrian minister said, because refugees can be safe there yet the government in Athens is simply passing them on to other EU member states.
Germany, Austria and Sweden cannot continue indefinitely to receive refugees. We have to stop uncontrolled migration, he said explaining that currently the objective is to relieve the burden on Macedonia otherwise the problem could spill over to the entire western Balkans.
The openness and welcoming in some European countries, Kurz claimed, has resulted in an uncontrolled increase in the number of refugees who have no future in the EU.
He confirmed that the current situation could lead to new routes for refugee. This is too much of a challenge for us and we have to talk on time about possibly opening new routes so that no misunderstanding between us can emerge, he said after conducting separate talks with the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency, the country's Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic and Foreign Minister Igor Crnadak.
Kurz confirmed that Austria would support Bosnia and Herzegovina's efforts to receive candidate status for membership to the EU, however, provided that it satisfies all the set preconditions.
We will support Bosnia and Herzegovina on its path to the EU and with all reforms, he said underscoring that it was decisive for Bosnia and Herzegovina to agree to mechanisms for interior coordination concerning relations with the EU because that is the most significant aspect to approve candidate status.
Crnadak confirmed that the country's delegation would present its request for candidate status in Brussels on 15 February, adding that he was convinced that the coordination mechanism would be agreed to over the next few days which is a pre-condition for the request to even be considered.
"Austria has expressed explicit support for the implementation of reforms and faster approach to the EU taking into consideration all our specifics," Crnadak said.