With an eye to the forthcoming Summit on the refugee issue are all countries involved in one way or another in this burning issue. One of them is Slovenia which recently decided to put the brakes on migration because, as pointed out, it was unable to deal with it.
The Director General of the Slovenian Foreign Ministry, David Brozina, talked to iTIMES and journalist Giorgos Fokianos in a comprehensive interview regarding the refugee issue.
-What is the “policy” of Slovenia on the issue of the refugee crisis?
When in September 2015 it became clear that migration flows were headed to our country, we made intensive efforts to create adequate reception facilities with organized medical help and basic information for refugees in collaboration with various NGOs. Very soon, however, it became clear that those immigrants who are not entitled to international protection had joined the growing flows, making the audit work and their registration extremely difficult. Therefore, we called for a meeting of the Balkan countries, which was organized by the European Commission in Brussels on October 25, asking for help from other EU Member States.
Slovenia, although it has been burdened heavily, is trying to actively assist other countries. We participate in the EUNAVFOR operation in the Mediterranean sea, while our police officers take part in the mission of FRONTEX in Greece and the FYROM borders. We do our best to alleviate the current situation. We expect, however, also from others to do their part and implement the decisions made.
On February 19, the European Council invited the Schengen States for the full implementation of the Treaty legislation in order to stop the immigration flow. This was confirmed at the meeting of EU leaders on March 7. Therefore, Slovenia today fully implements the border control.
It is clear that the flow interruption will require the immediate implementation of all other measures to alleviate migratory pressures in Greece. A plan of action with Turkey must be put into practice, as long as it complies with international and EU law. The agreed resettlement programme must be implemented, something that goes also for the effective return of economic migrants, coupled with an effective control of external borders and the way to address the deeper causes of migration.
– Has the cooperation between Slovenia and other countries of the Balkans and the European Union on the issue of the refugees gone any further?
We support the cooperation between all countries of the “Balkan corridor”. Only close coordination can prevent unwanted scenarios in the region. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the crisis, cooperation was very poor. We saw that different countries had different approaches. However, we always supported the idea that we must apply the legislation of the Schengen Treaty to the maximum extent possible, although with such a massive influx, it was not something easily applicable. Consultations are now regular and we should continue to discuss and to agree on our common action.
– Do you think that the closed border policy is in line with the European spirit?
The European Union’s borders are not closed, but we must find a solution that is actually targeted only at refugees in need of international protection. We believe that the relocation and resettlement programmme is the only correct approach to achieve this. Otherwise, a large number of people will enter the EU, who will not be entitled to stay in those countries.
The EU Member States are free to accept people in their territories, but this must be done with the full implementation of the Schengen legislation. Besides, the Schengen treaty is not opposed to any international humanitarian law or authority.
Upon entering the EU, the persons to be inspected, are being recognized, recorded and given protection. Those who do not meet the requirements should not be allowed entry. These are the rules. We must make a distinction between humanitarian aspects, on the one hand, and the security aspects on the other. Each member of the Schengen zone has an obligation to honour these commitments or to seek help, in case they cannot do that.
Finally, we should make clear that Schengen does not disappear as a result of the migration crisis. The”flows-in-waves-approach” that has been used by many of the “Balkan route” countries since September should be replaced by the organized settlement of refugees in need of immediate protection directly from the hotspots and the resettlement programmes from refugee camps. The summit on 18-19 February said it clearly.
– At the moment, Greece is in a very difficult situation from the continuous refugee flows. Do you believe that the Greek government is following the correct policy on the matter and, if not, what changes should be made?
Greece is undoubtedly under great pressure and should be helped. We very much appreciate all the efforts for the management of this crisis made by the Greek government and its citizens. However, the policy of “flows in waves” is not the right approach in a state with such proportions. The October draft, on which we and Greece agreed, said that all countries should create reception facilities.
Greece agreed to create hotspots on its islands with a capacity for 50,000 immigrants. We are still far from it. We believe that there is still a margin for the Greek authorities to act, with the help of Frontex and other partners. In the next days, the EU Council will agree on an economic programme that will help Greece with substantial funds to achieve these objectives.
– Can we expect a solution at the next EU summit?
In every meeting we are one step closer to a comprehensive solution, although we must act fast. Now that the flow of illegal immigration has stopped, we expect that the next summit will make a step forward to finding a common solution for the resettlement programme for refugees who are in Greek hotspots, while defining a joint action plan with Turkey.