Thursday

18th Oct 2018

Balkans migrant route in EU spotlight

  • Mogherini said countries in the region showed willingness for joint action on border security (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU foreign and home affairs ministers hosted a meeting on Thursday evening (8 October) with representatives from the Western Balkans and Syria's neighbors, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, to tackle the tensions arising from the influx of migrants and refugees arriving via this transit route to Europe.

This was the first time ministers have discussed the refugee crisis in this format.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Federica Mogherini, the EU's foreign policy chief said after the meeting that the countries of the region showed willingness for a new start in joint cooperation in managing borders, receptions, assistance and flows of people.

The western Balkans route via Turkey, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Hungary has become one of the biggest migratory routes into the European Union.

Nearly 400,000 refugees and migrants fleeing war and persecution have arrived in Greece by crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey this year alone.

Hungary has put up a fence on its southern border with Serbia and another is currently under construction with Croatia, which has put increased pressure on Croatia and Serbia.

The two countries exchanged accusations and briefly closed their borders in an escalation not seen since the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Mogherini said the "tensions are still very fresh and recent, the balance is delicate", but that there is renewed willingness to cooperate.

"The meeting tonight is a new starting point," she said.

The EU foreign affairs chief said that she also talked privately to the leaders in the region to try to diffuse tensions, "to avoid a verbal or non-verbal escalation, that in that part of Europe is extremely dangerous," she told press after the meeting.

The ministers in the region agreed to work together to start a political process in Syria to end the war, and to support neighbors of Syria that have been hosting millions of refugees in increased humanitarian aid.

The ministers also pledged increased cooperation in managing borders and actions against organised crime.

Germany, a favorite destination for refugees, is particularly unhappy that the Balkan countries are letting people through without registering them.

The talks on Thursday also addressed how to help the capacities in the region for the countries to slow down the influx of people.

On the sidelines on the meeting, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland agreed to participate in protecting the southern borders of Hungary and the Schengen free-travel zone.

EU unveils Turkey migration plan

The Commission has unveiled a plan on how to stem the flow of migrants from Turkey, including extra funds and a joint crackdown on smugglers.

Austria EU presidency seeks 'mandatory solidarity' on Dublin

EU interior ministers are meeting in Luxembourg this Friday to discuss migration. The Austrian EU presidency is hoping to reach a consensus on Dublin reforms and a concept of 'mandatory solidarity' after briefing 27 EU states bilaterally over the summer.

Libyan militia cash in on EU's anti-smuggling strategy

More people in Libya are being inducted into slavery as people-traffickers try to monetise their investment by selling them. A senior UN refugee agency official described it as an unintended side effect of the reduction of migrant boat departures.

Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate

Issues of sovereignty remain entrenched following a proposal by the European Commission to expand the EU's border and coast guard, also known as Frontex, to 10,000. But EU leaders maintain a "basic consensus" of support had been reached.

News in Brief

  1. Poland questions supremacy of EU court
  2. Medvedev to meet Juncker and Merkel in Brussels
  3. Italians and Czechs least favourable to remaining in EU
  4. Facebook hack set to be first major test of EU data rules
  5. Barnier open to extending Brexit transition period
  6. Juncker mulls rejection of Italy's 2019 budget
  7. German justice minister to lead SPD in European elections
  8. Tusk: May should come with new Brexit proposals

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. No progress at Brexit summit, talks continue
  2. May faces EU leaders head-to-head as Brexit deal falters
  3. Nordic region's top bank in new Russia funds complaint
  4. Why 'Spitzenkandidat' is probably here to stay
  5. EU ministers struggle to deal with Poland and Hungary
  6. Commission tried to hide details of 'WiFi4EU' glitch
  7. Brexit standoff continues before EU summit
  8. ASEM: Global Partners for Global Challenges

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us