Joint action crucial for successful response to the increase in migration flows along the Western Balkan route
State Secretary Dr Branko Lobnikar attended a Berlin Process meeting of interior ministers, hosted by German Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser in Berlin.
The ministerial meeting discussed ways to further strengthen cooperation in light of the increase in the number of migrants along the Western Balkan migration route and enhanced cooperation in the fight against organised crime and corruption and against violent extremism and terrorism.
"The Western Balkans region is an important partner for Slovenia, and joint action is crucial for a successful response to the increase in migration flows along the Western Balkan migration route," said the State Secretary. The increase in migration flows is the result of visa regimes in the region that are not aligned with the EU, a situation that has led to a sharp increase in arrivals of Indian, Burundian and Cuban nationals. "This is a clear indication that any unilateral move has wider implications for the whole region and the EU." The State Secretary therefore stressed the need to further strengthen the exchange of information and experience and the need for joint cross-border cooperation. "With the existing levers and tools, Slovenia and the EU are ready to offer various forms of assistance to our Western Balkan partners. To successfully address the current situation, action in four areas is crucial: harmonisation of visa policy in the Western Balkans with the EU visa policy; strengthening cooperation with the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) on the basis of an extended mandate; enhanced cooperation in the area of return of persons not eligible for international protection, and joint action against migrant smuggling," said Dr Lobnikar and stressed that respect for human rights must be a key guiding principle of cooperation. On the fight against migrant smuggling, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson stressed the importance of international cooperation, citing as an excellent example the recent joint investigation of migrant smuggling, in which Slovenia also participated.
Particular attention was paid to the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. This area has been marked by increased activity in the past period, particularly in the area of early detection of radicalisation. However, so-called foreign terrorist fighters – returnees – continue to pose an increased risk. "Fortunately, Slovenia is not one of the countries most affected by returnees. Nevertheless, we believe that the management of the return of returnees, including their family members, should be a matter of broad consensus, uniform policies and procedures agreed between countries," said the State Secretary. As this is an issue that affects the safety of all, it would be useful for the more experienced countries to support the less experienced ones. "We need to take a holistic approach to this challenge, involving humanitarian, social and other services, not just security. This is to ensure that we have the right resources and knowledge, as the lack of these is often the reason why integration programmes fail." In this context, we need to pay particular attention to risk management and develop programmes tailored to the different types of returnees.