Slovenian and Austrian Minister approve the test project of joint supervision of border between countries with technical equipment
Slovenian minister of the interior Aleš Hojs participated at a two-day ministerial summit in Vienna on efficient combat against current challenges of migration on the eastern Mediterranean route. Austrian federal minister of the interior Karl Nehammer called the conference due to increasing migration flows on the eastern Mediterranean migration route. The purpose of the meeting was to overview the overall situation regarding irregular migrations and agree on closer operational cooperation in addressing irregular migration with particular attention on border management.
In his intervention, minister Hojs expressed concern regarding the current situation on irregular migration, which is reminiscent of the situation in 2015. Due to detection of misuse in filing of intentions for international protection, the minister appealed for all the participants to review their asylum systems and use the already available options to prevent misuse. He presented his expectation for new proposal package to additionally strengthen these safeguards. »Slovenia has previously adopted several measures, which are now going to become tougher; we have prepared changes to the criminal law, which foresee stricter punishment for human smugglers; we are also amending the Foreigners Act and International protection Act to improve effectiveness of procedures.« the minister stated. He also highlighted the important role of the common EU policy regarding returns of foreigners to third countries. “The fact that EU only returns 35% of foreigners to third countries is worrying, and reflects the ineffectiveness of our policies.«
As for management of migrations in the Western Balkans, the minister highlighted the importance of adequate protection of external EU borders. »I therefore welcome the commitment we are going to adopt in our joint statement for additional support to front-line member states. Slovenia is very willing to do this more than before,« the minister concluded.
Horst Seehofer, German federal minister of the interior currently presiding the Ministerial council of EU ministers of the interior, also attended the conference. German minister labelled the current EU system for management of migrations as highly inefficient, as it does not allow quick identification of persons requiring international protection. He announced that as the presiding minister, he is going to try to reach an agreement on key future guidelines of these policies, which are to be based on the basic premises of the Pact on Migration and Asylum to be presented by the European Commission in September. German minister also underlined the importance of cooperation with countries of origin and transit countries as key factors, and was critical about interferences into funding of EU agencies that are going to play a considerably greater role in the future system.
On the second day, EU ministers were joined by the ministers of the interior of the Western Balkans countries via video conference. All the guest ministers warned of detection of increasing numbers of illegal border crossings and repeated their commitment to cooperation with the EU in management of irregular migrations. They expressed their expectation for the EU to support their efforts and do more to protect external EU borders in the meantime, which should ease the pressure on the countries in the Western Balkans.
On the second day, the EU ministers were also joined by the Vice-president of the European Commission Margaritis Schinas and the European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi. They complimented the countries in the Western Balkans on their efforts and progress in management of migrations and reassured that the European Commission shall continue to support their activities, namely through funding as well as implementation of specific projects. They also sent a clear message that countries in the Western Balkans must take on their share of responsibilities and become more active, particularly in exchange of information, registration of migrants and applicants and in strengthening the capacities of their asylum systems.
At the closing of the conference, the ministers adopted a joint declaration on adopted agreements and measures in management of migrations on the Western Balkans route. In the declaration, ministers expressed their support for Operational platform for the Eastern Mediterranean, the purpose of which is improvement of coordination between the existing and future initiatives and mechanisms in the field of migration and border management. To this end, the European Commission is to call an autumn meeting for experts from interested countries who are to review the existing situation and draft proposals for functioning of the platform.
Slovenian minister also had several bilateral meetings. He met with German federal minister of the interior with whom they talked about joint presidency of the EU Council and exchanged expectations about the Pact for migrations.
Minister Hojs also met with Austrian minister Nehammer. They talked about the current migrations situation in the Western Balkans region and planned activities. They also agreed on a test project of joint surveillance of the border between countries with technical equipment (drones, cameras, etc.), which should serve as a test of options for efficient cooperation in joint surveillance of border and transposal of these practices to the border between Slovenia and Croatia which is under heavier migration pressure. They also talked about measures adopted in both countries for containing and prevention of import of the disease COVID-19.
Slovenian minister also held a meeting with Nina Gregori, Executive director of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). The purpose of the meeting was introductory, while the minister and the director also talked about opportunities for strengthening cooperation between Slovenia and the Agency and potential support for more efficient performance of asylum procedures and exchanged views on the Pact on Migrations and Asylum.