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EU must convince southern members over border guard plan: Austria

As the primary entry points into the EU for many of the refugees fleeing across the Mediterranean, Italy, Spain and Greece are sceptical about the plans to beef up the Frontex border agency
As the primary entry points into the EU for many of the refugees fleeing across the Mediterranean, Italy, Spain and Greece are sceptical about the plans to beef up the Frontex border agency As the primary entry points into the EU for many of the refugees fleeing across the Mediterranean, Italy, Spain and Greece are sceptical about the plans to beef up the Frontex border agency AFP
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Vienne (AFP)

The EU must convince Italy, Spain and Greece to back a plan to bolster the bloc's external borders, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Wednesday as European Union leaders met in Salzburg to discuss the politically charged issue.

EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker "has put forward a proposal to widen the mandate of the Frontex (border agency) and make repatriations (of refugees) more effective," Kurz said in an interview with the Austrian daily Der Standard.

"Some member states are still rather sceptical. It's our task to convince them," said Kurz, whose country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

As the primary entry points into the EU for many of the refugees fleeing across the Mediterranean, Italy, Spain and Greece are sceptical about the plans to beef up the Frontex border agency, Kurz said.

"It's about their sovereignty rights, as well as concerns about the improved registration of migrants," the Austrian leader said.

Under the EU Commission's proposals, the number of Frontex border guards will be increased to 10,000 by 2020 and they will be able to intervene to better regulate the influx of migrants.

Kurz hinted that southern countries were "probably not unhappy" with the current situation in which many of the new arrivals, after setting foot in the EU, can continue more or less unhindered into central Europe.

Germany and France in particular advocate improving the system for registering migrants.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has also vowed to oppose the EU plan.

The fiercely anti-immigration premier said the plan would "strip Hungary of its right to protect its own borders".

"We will not give up our right to defend a border. No one can take an iota of that away from us," he told parliament in Budapest on Monday.

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