Austria to Stage Border Defense War Games After Migrant Surge Warning… Italy, France Tensions Spiral Over Rejected Ship

Austria Police, Army to Stage Border Defence War Games as Balkans Warn 80,000 Migrants Headed North

Austrian troops will carry out exercises preparing the nation’s border defence against a migration influx later this month after Balkans police warned 80,000 third-world migrants are heading towards Western Europe.

With up to 1,000 police officers, soldiers, and riot police set to take part in June, the drill will be Austria’s largest ever border patrol exercise, according to Kronen Zeitung, Austria’s best-selling newspaper.

The announcement came following a security conference in Slovenia at which police chiefs from countries along the Balkans migration routes warned they had seen a significant upsurge in the number of border crossings.

Speaking after the conference, Federal Criminal Police Office (BK) director Franz Lang said that the situation in the Balkans is “critical”, with 80,000 asylum seekers currently making their way through the region towards Western Europe.

“Everyone [at the conference] concluded there was cause for concern,” he said, telling the Austria Press Agency that countries including Albania reported the number of migrant arrivals having more than doubled since this time last year.

“It is mostly young males travelling alone that police see on this ‘mosque route’, many of whom could be considered to be potential jihadists,” Lang added.

Italy, France tensions spiral over rejected migrant ship

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Rome (AFP) – Italy postponed high-level talks with France on Wednesday after Paris branded Rome irresponsible for refusing to take in a migrant rescue ship.

Italy’s new economy minister postponed a meeting with his French counterpart in Paris as their countries traded barbs over the treatment of more than 600 migrants rescued off the Libyan coast at the weekend.

The migrants were stranded on the Aquarius vessel until Spain said the ship could land at its port of Valencia. It is expected to arrive there later this week.

French President Emmanuel Macron accused Italy’s new populist government of “cynicism and irresponsibility” for closing its ports to the 629 migrants.

Rome called his comments “unacceptable” and summoned France’s ambassador on Wednesday.

“Such statements are undermining relations between Italy and France,” Italy’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Macron later appealed for the two sides not to “give in to emotions that certain people are manipulating”.

In a speech in the western French town of Mouchamps, he insisted that France was “working hand in hand with Italy” to handle migration.

– Italy demands apology –

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Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini had suggested that a planned meeting between the leaders of the two countries should be cancelled if France did not issue an “official apology”.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Macron are due to hold talks on Friday ahead of a European summit focussing on migration.

“If an official apology doesn’t arrive, Prime Minister Conte would be right not to go to France,” Salvini told reporters.

A French presidential source said the country had not received any formal demand from Italy for an apology.

Italy’s new Economy Minister Giovanni Tria said he was cancelling a meeting with his French counterpart Bruno le Maire in Paris. The French economy ministry later said the ministers had “agreed that Mr Tria will come to Paris in the coming days”.

– ‘Axis of the willing’ –

European Union member states are divided over how to deal with asylum seekers.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Wednesday hailed cooperation between the hardline interior ministers of Austria, Germany and Italy on the issue.

“I think it marks very sensible cooperation that will contribute to reducing illegal migration to Europe,” said Kurz, whose country assumes the EU’s rotating presidency on July 1.

“We believe an axis of the willing is needed to fight illegal migration.”

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