Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Tuesday slammed Turkey for trying to “blackmail” the EU by opening its borders to thousands of refugees seeking to flee to Europe.
“It is an attack by Turkey against the European Union and Greece. People are being used to pressure Europe... The EU must not be susceptible to blackmail,” Kurz told reporters.
Turkey has given a green light to refugees and migrants on its territory, many of them displaced Syrians, to leave for the European Union, in defiance of a 2016 deal to keep them.
Kurz accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to lure refugees with “false promises” and transporting them to the Greek border – from where they are seeking to enter Europe – using people as “weapon” to pressure the EU.
Kurz added it was a “test” for the EU if it can protect its outer borders, saying Austria stood ready to support Greece and any other countries which may face an “onslaught.”
“I can guarantee you one thing: if the outer borders of the EU don’t work, then Europe without [inner] borders is history,” he said.
On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel described Turkey’s move as “unacceptable” and EU migration commissioner Margaritis Schinas said nobody could “blackmail or intimidate the EU.”
Tukey’s move comes amid intense fighting in the Syrian city of Idlib between pro-government forces and Turkish-backed rebels, and after Erdogan escalated the refugee dispute with Brussels.