The Slovenia Times

Avramopoulos in Slovenia over Schengen reform


Commissioner lauded Slovenia's role in securing the external Schengen border and its cooperation with Croatia, expressing the hope that borders would no longer be reasons for disputes.

The comment by the commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship came in response to a journalist's question about the possibility of Slovenia blocking Croatia's accession to the Schengen zone over the border arbitration dispute. He said that he knew nothing about Slovenia taking any such decision.

Croatia still needs to meet certain requirements to join the passport-free zone, but the commissioner is confident that there will be no blockade. The EU should not allow borders to continue to be reason for disputes between countries, said Avramopoulos, who also met Prime Minister Miro Cerar today.

Avramopoulos was in Slovenia to discuss updates to the Schengen Code based on guidelines presented by the European Commission in late-September. "We want to protect and preserve the benefits of free movement of people in the Schengen Zone," he said.

The Commission proposed the reform to deal with major terrorist threats, but there are also provisions making it possible for member states to impose border checks on internal borders within the Schengen zone for up to three years in the event of predictable serious threats.

Member states are currently allowed to put in place border checks for 30 days and then extend the measure for up to six months at a time. Under the new proposal, the original measure could be in place for a year and extended by two more years under certain conditions. Avramopoulos said this was only a measure of last resort.

Minister Györkös Žnidar said Slovenia understood the reasons why the Schengen Code needed to change in response to potential serious long-term threats to internal security.

But it also has concerns, she said, singling out overly general criteria based on which member states can institute border checks, and insufficient power of member states affected by such measures.

Slovenia's concerns are informed by the experience with Austria's current border checks, implemented in the aftermath of the refugee surge on the Balkan migration route and extended repeatedly since then despite Slovenia's protests.

Minister Györkös Žnidar reiterated Slovenia's displeasure with the ongoing checks on the border with Austria. She said Slovenia did not oppose the measure as such, it objected to its "untargeted, disproportionate and baseless use."

She said the number of illegal crossings was negligible. So far this year Austrian police returned only 27 foreigners who crossed the border illegally from Slovenia.

The issue was also discussed as the commissioner met PM Miro Cerar, who said that Slovenia as a responsible member of the Schengen zone was aware of its obligations, but he thought the area should return to being free from internal border controls, while any departure from that solution should only be as a last resort and proportional.

"Such a measure should be proportional and applied selectively where absolutely necessary, it needs to rest on credible and objective criteria, and in the spirit of transparency should be a subject of actual cooperation and coordination with the neighbouring countries," Cerar was quoted as saying by his office.

Avramopoulos and Minister Györkös Žnidar also reviewed the migration situation in Europe, agreeing that efforts to reform the single asylum system needed to be accelerated.

"We urgently need a new Dublin system that will be effective and just in peacetime and in crisis," the commissioner said.

Györkös Žnidar added that the situation was calm but illegal border crossings were on the rise, having increased by 120% in the first nine months of the year.


More from Nekategorizirano