The following op-ed concerns the latest feeble measures taken by the Austrian government to cope with the European “refugee crisis”. It was written several weeks ago by the well-known opinion writer Andreas Unterberger. Many thanks to JLH for translating this piece from the author’s website:
Sebastian Kurz — The One-Eyed Man Among the Blind
by Andreas Unterberger
August 25, 2015
The foreign minister [Sebastian Kurz] has made the most substantial suggestion of all politicians to date about the biggest Austrian problem by far — that is, the folk migration which surpasses all standards of measure. Thus far, official Austria has accepted this without resistance. Kurz’s idea is a positive contrast to the constant emission of do-gooder phrases from politicians and the media, and to the quarrels over division of the spoils which ignore the basic problem.
In doing this, Kurz presents a refreshing contrast to his party leader, whose appearance on Austrian Radio (ORF) resembled the “Oh, please, all come, the more the merrier” attitude of the Greens, the Pinks, SPÖ-Vienna. ÖVP-Tyrol and several bishops.
There is a strong suspicion that this contretemps masks a jealous conflict between Kurz and Mitterlehner. This will be entertaining for the fans of free style wrestling.
Kurz’s positions are in clear contrast to the next trial balloon the administration is sending up to distract the angry public. It is appointing a veteran of the Raiffeisen banking group, Christian Konrad, as commissioner of refugees. Experienced Austrians certainly know that no “commissioner” has yet solved any problem. Konrad is completely lacking in competence. Such an appointment only ever serves to feed the media for a few days. Then it is forgotten.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Kurz Plan
The Kurz plan, too, is half-hearted and insufficient. The young foreign minister is only the one-eyed man among the blind. He sees at least a little further than the rest of the politicos.
First, the positive: Kurz dares to call for military intervention against the terror militia [IS]. In fact, that is clearly necessary. Because, unfortunately, prayers, diplomatic bustle and outraged outcries from NGOs and human rightists have proven to have no effect against the volcano of madness in the Near East and the increasingly strong tributary lava streams overflowing Austria.
Kurz is also right to call for security and buffer zones in North Africa, from which could come proposals for the immigration to Europe. And he is right to call for strengthened protection of Europe’s outer borders, the declaring of secure lands of origin and the establishment of reception centers in Greece and Italy.
All correct, and a hundred times better than the helpless yammering dismay of all the rest of the government leadership. Or the euphemism from the party leader in his interview that what Austria needs to do is to fire the reverse thrusters. To be sure, Mitterlehner did not define this expression. (Instead of following up, the ORF interviewer supplied a silly question mark.) It appears that Mitterlehner intended it to encourage a greater willingness on the part of Austrians to accept the folk migration.*
This caused outrage in many TV viewers and despair in many former ÖVP voters. For them, Kurz is a last glimmer of hope.
But his idea too is truly only half-hearted (and one half-year late). The foreign minister avoids many of the thorniest questions.
What about “Neutrality”?
In the end, it is just embarrassing when an Austrian politician calls for military intervention, yet does not address the problem of neutrality. Under the leadership of Wolfgang Schüssel, the ÖVP still had the courage to demand the abrogation of neutrality. But for a decade now, it has forbidden this subject.
When an Austrian suggests “military intervention,” he is in essence asking that the Americans fight to the last GI, while Austria remains under cover of neutrality. The problem is, the Americans are not interested in doing more than they already are doing against IS. Which is, at any rate, more than any EU country is doing. Or Turkey.
Europeans and Austrians, with their enormously high percentage of Muslims, are ten times more threatened by IS and company than the Americans. Ergo, Austria has to, ought to, engage militarily, so that this threat can be disposed of militarily. The EU will only do something militarily if its members participate. And the rest of the world will only do something if the EU takes the lead.
Does the PKK Remain Taboo?
There is also another possibility of answering the threat of IS, Al-Qaida, the Taliban, et alii — support for their most efficient opponents. That is the Kurdish PKK and its sister militias. If (for poor but understandable reasons) we ourselves do not want to engage, then we should at least help the PKK.
In Austria, however, as in many other countries in the EU, the PKK is still banned. This is the polar opposite of intelligent. And it is not required by neutrality.
Granted, if Austria should pivot toward support of the PKK, then there would be other problems. Erdogan’s Turkey regards the PKK as a worse enemy than IS. Germany and other EU countries — because of their NATO partnership with Turkey — would be difficult to convince of support for the PKK.
But it is equally clear that if no one initiates this task of persuasion, it will never happen.
The many Turks living in Austria would not accept a pivot toward the PKK without serious demonstrations. And these protests would be joined by the resident Arabic-Pakistani-African Islamic fundamentalists.
Security Zones Alone are Senseless
Besides the military, Kurz suggested another range of measures to take against folk migration: Protection of external borders, security zones, reception camps at the borders. In spite of applauding the fact that at least one person in the leadership is trying to see the big picture, Kurz cannot be spared the criticism of half-heartedness:
- First of all: Setting up security zones in, for instance, Libya, requires a robust — in inter national law jargon, “peace-keeping” — military security force. It is otherwise impossible in a completely lawless region. Kurz does not touch on this question. In this case, there can be even less doubt than in a direct battle against IS, that Austria should be fully engaged
- Second: At the carrying out of this concept, all of the asylum industry-Caritas-diatonic social welfare-Red Cross apparatus, to say nothing of the Greens, would howl in fury. The truth is, they are against anything that could slow the immigrant stream. And no doubt some international rights activists would shake their heads and babble something about “counter to neutrality.”
- Third: After its dismantling, the national army is hardly able to participate in anything. At the moment, the last of the soldiers still serving have been commandeered for passing out food in immigrant camps (and presumably also for cleaning the toilets).
The fourth reason for calling these Kurz suggestions half-hearted is still more serious. Camps and security zones are only sensible if all illegal immigrants bound for Europe are brought there. Otherwise, such camps would only produce the opposite of what was intended, that is, a further increase in the flow of immigrants. Some immigrants would stop there temporarily and see if they might be accepted as asylum seekers. But all of those who did not succeed in that, and those who have completely ignored these camps, will continue on to Europe illegally.
Therefore, despite all investment in security zones and camps, the folk migration will become even larger than it is today, if the EU does not bring all apprehended illegals into these camps. And even more will follow them. Several possibilities then arise:
|1.||Achievement of a humanitarian residence permit.|
|2.||Years of legal maneuvers with all the shady tricks of NGO lawyers.|
|3.||Having a child by a citizen of the EU (which according to European courts creates a “right of family” including a right to stay).|
|4.||Conviction for drug-dealing (because, afterwards, they cannot be sent back to their home country because they face a death sentence there).|
|5.||Acquiring false documents.|
|6.||Living underground and working illegally, which is relatively easy in some countries.
Only the Australia Strategy Works
The opposite example of Australia shows that, when such a strategy is consistently employed, the flow of refugees stops very soon. But only then. Nothing else works.
Consistent deportation to such camps would have another positive effect. Hundreds of thousands of young Syrian men would realize that the best thing they could do for a better life for their families, would be to join the fight against the madness of IS in their own homeland.
But Europe should catch up on one thing that it should have done long ago, which would be both humanitarian and in Europe’s own interests. It should generously finance the building and maintenance of refugee camps with decent conditions on the edges of the crisis areas. In Turkey, in Lebanon, In South Sudan, in Nigeria, in Ethiopia and wherever else people are threatened by wars and dictatorships. For children and old people, women and the sick.
Further, all European countries that need workers because of declining birthrates should make generous offers for orderly immigration.
The Government “Concept”
But back to the real world and Austria. What the coalition leadership has now agreed upon as a new “refugee concept” is unfortunately much weaker than the Kurz paper. Instead of engaging and improving his ideas, they have produced a renewed confession — poorly disguised by many phrases — that they are overextended and clueless.
The only commendable exception is that the punishments for people-smugglers are made more severe. At the moment, they are so minor that they do not carry even a hint of deterrence.
But let us see if it will even become law. Or will it be protested out of existence by the Greens, who are the main support for the Red-Black coalition? In the end, the smugglers are the real good guys for the genuine Left.
PS: Reinhold Mitterlehner’s remark on ORF was absolutely correct, that the FPÖ has not presented any ideas on the asylum question. But he forgets that the FPÖ is the opposition, while he is in the administration. And only the administration must act. Not the opposition.
PPS: It is depressing that, through an entire, hour-long ORF interview, Mitterlehner did not dare to utter even one breath of criticism of the SPÖ.
* Is it just me, or is “folk migration” a new addition to the useful euphemisms for useful idiots?