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Home affairs ministers discussed fight against terrorism and migration

The Minister of the Interior Aleš Hojs and State Secretary Anton Olaj attended an extraordinary meeting of the EU Council of home affairs ministers through a videoconference call. The morning session, attended by the State Secretary, was devoted to a discussion on the fight against terrorism. The reason for putting this topic on the agenda was the recent terrorist attacks across Europe, which Slovenia condemned in the strongest terms.

State Secretary Olaj pointed out that in Slovenia which, due to its geographical and transit position, is an entry point into the Schengen area, we are fully aware of the fact that a stable security situation is not self-evident. “That is why we are particularly committed to working closely with partner countries, in particular the Western Balkans region.”

The State Secretary supported the joint statement drawn up by the German Presidency, which unanimously condemns such attacks at EU level and confirms unity in the fight against terrorism. In the future, as Olaj said, activities to strengthen Europol’s operational capabilities will be crucial, focusing on the analysis of large-scale databases and the prevention of radicalisation. Action at EU level should also be directed towards strengthening cooperation with intelligence services. “It is essential to identify new threats in an appropriate and timely manner, which is why preventive action and information sharing between EU Member States is crucial.”

Olaj also pointed out that the country will “continue with the implementation of already set initiatives and existing tools, and we will also devote our full attention to the realisation of the identified activities in the joint statement”.

In the second part of the meeting, which was attended by the Minister of the Interior, Aleš Hojs, ministers discussed the pact on migration and asylum. The Minister said at the outset that Slovenia is thoroughly studying the pact and raising more and more questions. “I am ready to contribute to the political agreement and I hope we reach it by the end of the German Presidency.”

Slovenia agrees with certain parts of the pact, such as the external dimension and the general approach to return, said the Minister, adding that there are three important areas for our country, i.e. the issue of solidarity, border procedures and the role of EU agencies that still need to be discussed.

“There have been around 12,000 illegal border crossings reported in Slovenia this year, which is the equivalent of 360,000 people arriving in Italy or almost half a million in Germany. This fact needs to be properly taken into consideration when formulating a migration policy. It will also be necessary to specify clearly that border procedures are carried out at the EU’s external border. The Slovenia-Croatia border is an external Schengen border and the current texts of legislative proposals do not adequately define the procedures at such a border, which is a grey area," said the Minister and also called for a more uniform platform at EU level for returning persons to third countries.

The concept of return sponsorship, which, in Slovenia’s view, does not represent a proper alternative to relocation, will also need elaboration. Small Member States have very limited resources to ensure the successful return of migrants to their countries. Return will not be successful if irregular migrants are moved across the EU. This is just another pull factor, and search and rescue operations have the same effect according to Slovenia. 

Slovenia believes that a greater role for EU agencies, which will be one of the cornerstones of the future EU migration policy, is also essential. In this connection, Minister Hojs highlighted the role of the European Asylum Support Office. “The renewed legal basis should be adopted as soon as possible, providing the office with the necessary powers and resources to fulfil their tasks,” concluded the Minister and added that Slovenia would participate constructively in the negotiations.