Austria vows to 'protect' its borders after German migrant deal

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said it was preferrable to "keep negotiating" than risk a hard Brexit

Austria's government warned Tuesday it could "take measures to protect" its borders after Germany planned restrictions on the entry of migrants as part of a deal to avert a political crisis in Berlin.

If the agreement reached Monday evening is approved by the German government as a whole, "we will be obliged to take measures to avoid disadvantages for Austria and its people," Vienna's rightwing government said in a statement.

It added it would be "ready to take measures to protect our southern borders in particular," those with Italy and Slovenia.

"We expect more clarity" from Berlin, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Tuesday at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where he presented his country's priorities as it takes over the rotating EU presidency for the next six months.

Late on Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reached a deal on migration with her rebellious interior minister, Horst Seehofer, to defuse a bitter row that had threatened her government.

Among the proposals is a plan to send back to Austria asylum seekers arriving in Germany who cannot be returned to their countries of entry into the European Union.

But Kurz warned "other countries, like Austria, will react by national measures" if Berlin confirms it will turn away asylum seekers arriving at the German border if they were registered elsewhere.

Austria said it would be prepared to take similar measures to block asylum seekers at its southern borders, with the risk of a domino effect in Europe.

"I would like to make a promise to you: the Austrian presidency will do everything possible so that in the long term we have a Europe without internal borders again," Kurz told MEPs.

But that would be dependent on guaranteeing sufficient protection for the EU's external borders, he said.

"On the other hand, I cannot promise you when that might happen, I cannot predict whether there will be national measures" of the type announced by Germany against "secondary movements" of migrants within the EU.

The Austrian chancellor welcomed the "important turning point" reached by the EU, with the priority now on the need to tackle arrivals on European coasts.

There is no longer a focus just on "the distribution" of asylum seekers within the EU, but also on the protection of borders, he said.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said he wanted 'more clarity' from Germany over migrants