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Salzburg Forum to strengthen cooperation on regional security

Acting Director-General of the Migration Directorate Nataša Potočnik attended a videoconference of the Salzburg Forum convened by Poland currently holding the Forum presidency.

The meeting first discussed hybrid threats, particularly in view of the instrumentalisation of migration at the EU border with Belarus. The Acting Director-General of the Migration Directorate pointed out as follows: "The phenomenon of instrumentalisation of migration is still present in the EU and deserves our full attention. Although the situation on the border with Belarus is overshadowed by the situation in Ukraine, we need to be aware that it might reoccur at any time." She insisted that we need a clear common response to prevent such developments in the future, as well as access to the financial resources to be provided by the European Commission to this end.

Touching upon the burning issue of the war in Ukraine, Nataša Potočnik stressed Slovenia is providing subsidiary protection to Ukrainian citizens. She also pointed out security concerns: "Ukraine is awash with weapons that could easily end up on the black market in the EU. This would pose a serious threat to the safety of both our citizens and our law enforcement agencies." She also warned of potential human trafficking accompanying mass migration from Ukraine, which is a major focus of the police assisted by NGOs.

Speech by Acting Director General of the Directorate for Migration Nataša Potočnik

Speech by Acting Director General of the Directorate for Migration Nataša Potočnik | Author Ministrstvo za notranje zadeve

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The second part of the meeting was devoted to better coordination in return procedures. The Acting Director-General said return is one of the key pillars of common and comprehensive migration management in the EU, given a challenging migration situation. In cooperation with third countries and while respecting human rights, it is necessary to make the return of migrants who are not eligible for international protection more effective. Potočnik also mentioned the international conference about cooperation on return organised by the Slovenian and Austrian Ministries of the Interior last week in Ljubljana, where experts shared experience and best practice. Like her Austrian and Croatian counterparts, she exposed cooperation with the Western Balkan countries. Their too liberal visa policy towards some third countries is often misused, enabling illegal arrivals in the EU. "Recently, we have seen a sharp increase in illegal arrivals of citizens from India, Cuba and some African countries who travel along the Balkan route via Belgrade under the visa-free regime," Potočnik said. This is why there are increasing calls from EU Member States to end the visa-free regime with Western Balkan countries.

In conclusion, the participants adopted a joint declaration. They recognise the special role of the Salzburg Forum for regional security and express their commitment to promoting cooperation in this area within the Forum and with EU Member States and third countries. They condemn the Russian aggression, pointing out that it has created the gravest humanitarian crisis in Europe with long-term repercussions for security and migration. They emphasize that the EU must not be held hostage through the instrumentalisation of migration, and that decisive and prompt action must be taken to terminate such an artificially created crisis. The participants agree that the effective control of migration flows also means the effective return of people who are not eligible to enter and stay in the EU, which is a major challenge for both the EU and the Forum members. The declaration underlines the need for the EU and its Member States to have available all the necessary tools to stop irregular and secondary migration and hybrid threats. They also call for continued coordination and tailor-made action in migration management for all countries included in the mandate of the Joint Coordination Platform.

The Salzburg Forum, which was established in 2000, includes Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Their cooperation focuses on strengthening operational cooperation in Central Europe, on developing common positions concerning EU legislation and policies, and implementing the Forum's common external strategy with an emphasis on neighbouring countries. Representatives from the Western Balkans and Moldova joined the discussions in the second part of the videoconference.