Wednesday

23rd May 2018

Eastern EU leaders to urge Balkan border clamp down

A handful of eastern EU states are seeking to ramp up border controls in the Balkans to stem migration inflows from Greece.

The move, set to be discussed on Monday (15 February) in Prague by the so-called Visegrad Four, is likely to provoke German opposition.

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Composed of the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, the Visegrad group wants to prevent refugees and migrants from taking the Western Balkan route towards mainland EU.

German authorities have said the planned border blockades would put Greece under greater pressure.

The vast majority of people leaving Turkey to seek international protection land on Greek Aegean islands.

Most then attempt to cross into Macedonia before heading further north to seek asylum in Germany or Austria.

But Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka told Reuters on Sunday that EU agreements with Turkey to better manage and minimise the flows have yet to deliver results.

"The Visegrad Four (V4) realises how important it is to focus on the west Balkan route and show solidarity with the west Balkan countries and help them with protection of their borders," he said.

Both Macedonia and Bulgaria have been invited to attend the V4 meeting in Prague with Hungary lobbying to get Bulgaria admitted into the passport-free Schengen zone.

Greece, for its part, said it tried to manage the flows and provide border security.

“We made mistakes, we were confused, we didn’t know how to work with this new phenomenon; we had delays. But if someone wants xenophobia to prevail and the lack of reason, one has to find a scapegoat and for some people, it is Greece,” said Greece's minister in charge of migration policy Yiannis Mouzalas, reports ANA-MPA news agency.

The EU last week demanded Greece sort out its border and migration management methods at the risk of extending internal border controls in the Schengen zone to two years.

Slovenia's PM Miro Cerar had also announced in January broader plans to bolster the Macedonian border with Greece.

"All European countries should provide Macedonia with the maximum assistance, we should deploy police officers, we should provide equipment," he had said in January.

Now Ljubljana announced on Sunday it would impose a limit on the number of asylum seekers and refugees allowed to enter Austria.

Fears are mounting that bottlenecks could appear along the route once Austria imposes a migration cap.

Vienna had earlier said it would accept only 37,500 asylum claims this year, down from around 90,000 in 2015. It also wants to deport a minimum of 12,500 people.

Athens mayor wants direct access to EU migration fund

The European Commission wants to triple the amount of money for migration in the next EU budget. Earlier this week, EU agencies, NGOs, and the mayor of Athens gave their views at a European parliament public hearing.

France tightens immigration law, sparking division

French lawmakers are cracking down on asylum seekers in a bid to send those rejected back home. Controversial measures they passed over the weekend will now be debated in the French senate in June.

Opinion

Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny

Most refugee-related services are outsourced to the private sector and NGOs, which are not adequately monitored and evaluated. When governments and EU institutions provide funding for refugee projects, they should scrutinise the NGOs and private players they work with.

Opinion

Calling time on European-Turkish strategic relations

With an Erdogan-Putin summit on Tuesday, joined by Iran on Wednesday, it is time for Europe to face facts - Turkey's ties with the West are no longer strategic. When Europe goes hither, Turkey deliberately goes thither.

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