Sunday

15th Dec 2019

Slovenia threatens to follow Austria with border checks

  • Slovenia's PM said border controls on migrants in the northern EU states are putting his country at risk (Photo: European council)

Slovenia may impose more border controls after Austria issued over the weekend temporary measures to stem the flow of migrants.

Slovenia's prime minister Miro Cerar said in Ljubljana on Monday (18 January) that an EU-level solution needed to be found on securing external borders, with more help for Western Balkan states.

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"If Germany or Austria adopt certain measures for stricter controls then of course we will adopt similar strict measures with our southern border with Croatia", he said.

Slovenia began erecting a razor-wire fence on the border with its Croat neighbour last November and is now mulling a proposal to send its troops to help manage the inflows.

The prime minister, who insisted upon safeguarding the EU's passport-free Schengen zone, said he also had a duty to maintain the security and property of Slovenians.

He noted that people who first entered Europe through Greece or Croatia to seek international protection "will not be accepted by Slovenia because we are not the entry point to the European Union".

He said moves needed to made to ensure Slovenia "does not become a pocket" should borders continue to close among northern EU states.

'Millions ready to enter'

Cerar said "millions, and I stress millions of migrants from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Algeria, Morocco" are ready to enter the EU once the weather improves in the coming months.

The PM has asked the EU and Western Balkan leaders to help Macedonia contain the flow at its border stations with Greece.

"All European countries should provide Macedonia with the maximum assistance, we should deploy police officers, we should provide equipment," he said, noting that people in need of protection should be allowed through.

For its part, the European Commission on Monday endorsed Austria's decision to reimpose temporary border controls.

The border clampdown is part of a broader move by Vienna to prevent refugees from transiting through amid threats to send them back to Slovenia.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels, EU commission spokesperson Natasha Bertaud said the reintroduction of border checks was nothing "out of the ordinary".

'Not out of the ordinary'

Austria had already announced a border clampdown last September. The latest measure is set to last until February.

"They [border checks] should go until February so this is not a situation that is out of the ordinary", said Bertaud.

Austrian interior minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner had said in an interview with state radio broadcaster ORF that only those seeking asylum in Germany "are being allowed in. Those who want to go further are being turned back."

The Austrian defence ministry had also announced it would deploy troops to help stop the transit of any asylum seeker not intending to apply for international protection in Germany.

A total of seven EU states, including non-member state Norway, have reimposed temporary border checks in response to a refugee crisis that has confounded decision makers and politicians across Europe for months.

Over 1 million sought asylum in Germany last year alone with many others making their way to Sweden.

'Refugee highway'

Sweden dubbed the flow as "refugee highway" and has since introduced ID checks with Denmark, ending some 60 years of border free travel between the two neighbours.

Austria's chancellor Werner Faymann on Sunday described the ad-hoc and piecemeal implementation of decisions to better manage the refugee inflows could eventually unravel the EU's cherised passport-free Schengen zone.

He said the EU's external borders need to be better secured, at the risk of jeopardising the freedom of movement.

Adding to the growing chorus against threats to a Schengen collapse, EU council chief Donald Tusk said strong external borders were a prerequisite for a borderless EU.

Last week, EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos made similar statements.

Speaking to MEPs in the European parliament's civil liberties committee, he said a collapsed Schengen would lead to "the beginning of the end of the European project".

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