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The Minister discusses border control with Austrian colleague

Today, 12 April 2018, Minister of the Interior Vesna Györkös Žnidar attended the Salzburg Forum Vienna Process Ministerial Conference in Vienna. The conference, which will be concluded tomorrow, 13 April 2018, has been dedicated to discussions on future guidelines regarding the current EU topics with emphasis on international protection, internal security, police cooperation and border protection. 

On this occasion, Minister of the Interior Vesna Györkös Žnidar met with her Austrian counterpart Herbert Kickl. First, they agreed that the cooperation between the ministries and police forces of both countries had traditionally been very good and effective. In further discussion, they particularly focused on the extension of border controls by the Republic of Austria. The Minister reiterated Slovenia's position that we consider such a measure unjustified and disproportionate, the latter being confirmed by statistical data on returned persons (while in 2017, the Austrian security authorities returned 39 persons to Slovenia, there have only been seven such cases in the first three months of this year). The Minister ensured that Slovenia, as a full member of the Schengen area, was implementing its tasks related to the protection of the Schengen border very seriously and responsibly. "We are aware that security is an extremely important value both for Slovenia and for the entire EU." Minister Kickl explained that they had decided on the extension due to security threats, particularly the threat of terrorism, and the worrying developments on the migration routes, along which illegal migrants were still arriving in the EU, as well as in view of the forthcoming Austrian Presidency of the EU, when a high level of security will have to be provided at every event. He thanked Minister Györkös Žnidar for excellent protection of the external Schengen border and pointed out that their control at the Slovenian-Austrian border could by no means be seen as a vote of no confidence to the Slovenian endeavours. He added that continued and strengthened cooperation in the future could lead to the gradual abolishment of controls at the common border, provided that an ever higher level of protection of the EU external borders, i.e. the migrants’ points of entry, was ensured. 

 

They furthermore discussed the reform of the Common European Asylum system, particularly the Dublin Regulation, where the disagreement between the EU member states regarding the proposed activities, which include the mandatory relocation of international protection applicants between the states in a crisis situation, has created a deadlock. According to the Minister, Slovenia supports this reform, as "in our opinion, solidarity is still the key element of this system." She added that it was of crucial importance that only persons truly in need of protection were entitled to this mechanism and that the possibility of the abuse of the asylum systems should be minimised. Slovenia therefore expects that the reformed European asylum law will provide for efficient procedures without additional administrative burdens as well as immediate and effective cooperation of the European agencies and other international organisations (such as the UNHCR, IOM, NGOs active in this area).

 

In this framework, the Minister also presented the proposal that had been put forward by Slovenia on various occasions as a possible alternative in terms of international protection system management in crisis situations. This proposal involves the temporary protection mechanism, which enables quick and relatively simple procedures, granting protection to persons who are undoubtedly in need of it for a limited period. Minister Kickl agreed that as regards asylum, we should deal with the challenges in a broader context, rather than just in the context of the applicable laws and the attempt to reform the Common European Asylum system, which is why Austria will put forward new options and proposals for the development of the future European system of protection within the framework of the Vienna Process and during its EU Council Presidency. 

 

They also addressed the situation in the field of migration in the region, where a new migration route has opened up from Greece through Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina to Croatia and then to Slovenia. The Minister highlighted the importance of regular information exchange and cooperation between all the competent institutions in these countries and the importance of providing adequate assistance to the countries in the region aimed at migration management. "Only in this manner will the situation in the region remain under control," the minister pointed out.