Merkel, Balkan Leaders in Vienna Searching for Migrant Solution

  • Meeting will focus on European borders in need of security aid
  • Kern describes summit as a ‘step’ toward European solution

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern met with European leaders in Vienna on Saturday to explore new measures to help the continent deal with its influx of refugees.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras were among the heads of government from 10 central and southeastern European nations. Their focus will be on the Balkan migration route used by Afghan, Iraqi and Syrian refugees to reach Europe, according to the program.

“The meeting is a step toward a European solution,” Kern said Saturday in comments posted on the Chancellery website. Talks will focus on which European borders need to be strengthened and where refugee aid is most needed, he said.

Refugees fleeing conflict and migrants seeking opportunity have strained Europe’s ability to cope in the last two years. The European Union accepted 305,700 new applications of asylum in the second quarter, pushing the number of people received in the last 12 months to about 1.5 million.

The influx of foreigners has set off a backlash that risks tearing apart Europe’s political order and leaving the continent divided. The U.K. already voted to leave the 28-nation bloc partly because of concerns over immigration. Nationalist politicians promising to crack down on immigrants have gained support in Austria and Germany. A cleft has emerged dividing eastern EU members opposed to accepting any refugees and western nations in favor of following legal conventions.

“If we can’t solve this problem, it calls into question the whole EU project,” Kern told Vienna’s Der Standard on Friday

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