Days after Austria threatened to reinstate border checks, Austrian forces conducted border-security exercises on Monday in the border town of Spielfeld in preparation for a wave of 80,000 migrants expected to travel through the new "Balkan route" from Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Croatia to Western and Central Europe.
"A state which can't protect its borders when needed loses its credibility," said Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, who was in charge of the exercise along with Defence Minister Mario Kunasek. Over 500 Austrian policemen and 220 soldiers, including those in the new "Puma" unit took part in the drills, which included a display of "Black Hawk" helicopters and simulated border unrest in which cadets played unruly migrants.
Both Kickl and Kunasek are members of the conservative Freedom party (FPOe) - which has been the junior partner in a coalition government under conservative chancellor Sebastian Kurz. On Monday, Kursz said that Austria would "be ready and do everything necessary to protect our borders if Horst Seehofer, Germany's interior minister, goes ahead with plans to protect his country's southern boundary."
"We must also be prepared for the case that in a sudden large migratory flow, the border protection measures in these friendly countries no longer help," said Interior Minister Herbert Kickl in mid-June, adding "We also show that we are serious. There will be no registration and wave-taking with us, but a real defensive attitude."
"The situation is critical," said General Fritz Lang, director of Austria's Federal Criminal Police Office, who says that 30 illegal border crossings are attempted every day. According to Lang, the migrants are primarily young male loners, "many of whom are considered "terrorist fighters," which require strong border protection.
Austria constructed a reinforced fence on the Slovenian border in late 2015 after a flood of asylum seekers began pouring into the country from Slovenia. Slovenia, meanwhile, built a wall at their southern border with Croatia to stem the flow of migrants north.
Lang, commenting on the "unsightly scenes" when migrants attempt to enter the country, said "We certainly will not defuse our own situation if we simply mislead people by waving migrants through. And our policemen will be standing so close to the Slovenian border that any application for asylum there will be a case for the Slovenians."
Kickl, meanwhile, had some harsh words for German chancellor Angela Merkel two weeks ago, saying "The whole problem started with the sentence 'We can do it'," in reference to accepting the influx of migrants sweeping Europe.