Austria will take over the European Council’s rotating presidency in July for six months, meaning it will be able to set the agenda of EU summits, push forward EU legislation and chair and organise meetings.
Sebastian Kurz told German weekly Welt am Sonntag that the EU’s border protection agency, Frontex, should should have a mandate “to act in third countries, with the permission of their governments, to end smugglers’ dirty business model and prevent smugglers’ boats setting off on the dangerous route across the Mediterranean”.
EU border agents should “stop illegal migrants on the external borders, tend to them, and then ideally send them immediately back to their home country or transit country”, he said.
Frontex, which is headquartered in Warsaw, Poland, is currently restricted to patrolling the border of the Schengen area.
The European Commission, currently chaired by Bulgaria, announced in May that it planned to employ an additional 10,000 Frontex border guards by 2027. Mr Kurz told the German newspaper he supported the policy, but said the recruitment drive needed to happen “much faster”.
The chancellor has previously vowed to step up EU efforts against migrants when his coalition administration assumes control of the council and has scheduled an EU summit in September focused on the “fight against illegal migration”.
Mr Kurz become chancellor after elections in October 2017 in which his OVP party won 31 per cent of the vote. He was joined in government by the FPO, a far-right party which won 26 per cent. Both parties took a hardline approach to immigration on the campaign trail.
The coalition unveiled plans last year to introduce “sanctions” for immigrants who keep their own culture and refuse to “integrate” into Austrian culture. It has also pledged to speed up deportations and halve undocumented migration.
Tens of thousands of migrants and refugees attempt to reach southern European countries each year by crossing the Mediterranean in smugglers’ boats. Most of the boats are unfit for open water and thousands drown.
Spain’s maritime rescue service said on Sunday afternoon it has rescued 366 migrants attempting the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea this weekend.
The UN says 636 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean so far this year. A total of 22,439 migrants reached European shores, with 4,409 arriving in Spain, through the first four months of 2018.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press