Skip to main content

Poklukar at the Salzburg Forum on implementing the Migration Pact and combating migrant smuggling

Minister of the Interior Boštjan Poklukar attended a two-day Ministerial Conference of the Salzburg Forum in Austria.
The ministers stand side by side in two rows on the grass, with trees behind them.

Group photo | Author Austrian Ministry of the Interior, Juergen Makowecz

1 / 4

The Ministers of the Salzburg Forum, considered to be a powerful stakeholder group, endorsed a joint declaration focusing on joint action in the area of migration and internal security. The Salzburg Forum countries are Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Within the Forum, the Group of Friends of the Salzburg Forum operates as a platform for closer cooperation with third countries and this year's conference was also attended by ministers from the Western Balkan partners.

Regarding migration, Minister Poklukar stressed that the Pact on Migration and Asylum is our main guideline for managing irregular migration in the coming years. However, the implementation of the pact and its impact will need to be regularly monitored and analysed. If there are any gaps, legal or otherwise, they will need to be addressed in an effective and timely manner, and the minister stressed the importance of responsiveness and flexibility. "I would also like to emphasise that the current migration reality requires new thinking, adapted to the new migration architecture, bearing in mind that all innovative solutions must be well thought out, because people's destinies, dignity and rights are at stake," said Minister Poklukar.

One of the key pillars of migration policy, which remains one of our weakest points, is the return of migrants who do not meet the conditions for residence. The minister called on the European Commission to play a more active role in this area and to provide return assistance not only to EU countries, but also to partner countries, especially in the Western Balkans. This assistance should not only be financial and technical, but also with diplomatic contacts, as many people are unable to establish working or formal contacts with their countries of origin. Both Frontex and the European Commission have supported our initiative. The agency will need a new legal basis to provide return assistance to partner countries, while the European Commission will immediately start assisting in diplomatic contacts.

In the area of migrant smuggling, there was a broad consensus that this is a priority area where many different types of police cooperation is already taking place and producing results. Everyone agreed that this form of crime also generates other forms of crime, such as trafficking in narcotics, arms, human beings, corruption, but that it is also a form of crime that is on the rise because of the enormous profits it generates. We must therefore strive to further improve operational cooperation and the exchange of information. It is also necessary to harmonise legislation in this area so that organised crime groups do not exploit legal loopholes for their criminal activities. From Slovenia's point of view, Europol has a key role to play in this area, as it is also a close partner of Slovenia in the area of internal security.

They also discussed with their Western Balkan partners the visa policy towards third countries, which should be aligned with EU policy. While recognising the historical contacts, economic cooperation and other elements linking the Western Balkan partners with third countries, it was said that partner countries should make a clear commitment to accept rejected third country nationals who have entered their countries without visas.

In their joint declaration, the ministers also focused on the area of digitalisation and new technologies, which should be closely monitored. The establishment of rules on data retention at EU level is crucial for the successful work of authorities in preventing, detecting and investigating crime and should be addressed immediately and as a matter of priority. It is important for Slovenia to raise public awareness on this important issue, so that the public is aware of the challenges the police face on a daily basis when investigating crime. It is also important to raise awareness of the needs of the police so that they can continue to keep citizens safe and protect victims in an increasingly digitalised world.

On the margins of the conference, Minister Poklukar met with the Serbian Minister of the Interior, Ivica Dačić. They discussed enhanced cooperation in the area of home affairs and police.