Slovenia finds Austria’s border checks extension unjustified

The Slovenian Foreign Ministry has described Austria’s renewed six-month extension of border checks on what is an internal Schengen border between the two countries as unwarranted, saying that Austria failed to prove existence of a new security threat. Slovenia expects temporary border checks to end.

Austria notified the European Commission, European Parliament and fellow EU member states in October of its decision to extend controls on the border with Slovenia by another six months to May 2023. The country reintroduced border checks as a temporary measure during the 2015 migration crisis.

As reasons for the latest extension, by 11 May 2023, Austria listed increased migration flows, including as a result of visa policies of Western Balkan countries, increased secondary migration due to the situation on the EU’s external border and activities of organised smuggling rings.

In response the Slovenian Foreign Ministry invoked the EU Court’s ruling that extending border checks due to the same threat is not in compliance with EU law. The court emphasized that such internal border checks can only be extended in case of a new serious threat that affects the country’s public order or internal security and that is different from the initially established threat.

Considering statistics the number of illegal crossings of the border and illegal migrants returned by Austria to Slovenia is low and comparable to figures in previous years, in view of which fact Slovenia does not think Austria is facing a new threat, the ministry says.

Slovenia expects Austria to abolish temporary border controls, noting the importance that member countries work together to cope with security threats, which also follows from the Schengen Borders Code.

The ministry pledged for Slovenia to continue to work for consistent implementation of the code, which envisages temporary border checks on internal borders only as an extreme measure that is proportionate to the threat to public order or internal security and is limited in time.

Slovenia also expects the European Commission to assess justification of temporary border checks more consistently, including in light of the relevant ruling of the EU Court, and to act in accordance to Article 27 of the Schengen Borders Code.

Slovenia welcomes the Commission’s position that the ruling in question sets out clearly that controls on internal borders need to be limited in time and proportionate to the threat, and its declared intention to act when member states fail to take appropriate measures to comply with the ruling, the ministry’s press release reads.

Data from the Interior Ministry shows that Austrian law enforcement authorities returned 39 illegal migrants to Slovenia in the first nine months of the year, which compares to 45 in the same period last year.