Austrian Defense Minister Hans Peter Doskozil said on Monday that his government would meet with its Balkan neighbors to discuss what action they might take if the EU-Turkey migrant deal, aimed at restricting the flow of illegal migrants into the European Union, collapses.
“Very significant cracks are apparent in this deal between Europe and Turkey. And we simply have to prepare for what will happen if this deal no longer holds,” Doskozil said after a meeting of his counterparts and other defense officials from the region in the Austrian town of Frauenkirchen on Monday.
Turkey has threatened to walk away from the deal agreed in March if Turks are not granted visa-free travel to the bloc.
Balkan countries, including Austria, Macedonia and Serbia, coordinated the imposition in February of border restrictions that largely shut down what was then the main migrant route into Europe, causing a logjam in Greece before the deal with Turkey.
After hundreds of thousands of migrants crossed the Balkan countries in a wave of arrivals that began last year, Austria and its neighbors fear a collapse of the deal with Turkey will lead to another surge, playing into the hands of populist parties.
Following the deal struck in March, Brussels demanded that Turkey change its anti-terrorism laws, which it deems too broad. However, the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan refused, and the deadlock over the plan to grant Turks visa-free access to Europe persisted as Erdoğan has continued a crackdown on dissent since a failed coup attempt in July, which has discomfited European leaders.