Slovenia to remove fence from southern border by year’s end

Ljubljana – The new government has made a promise to remove the fence from the border with Croatia. The Interior Ministry has assured the STA this is one of the priorities, with the removal expected by the end of the year.

Slovenia started erecting fence on its southern border during the 2015 European migration crisis. It now runs to 196 kilometres, of which 135,372 metres of wielded wire fence and 60,595 metres of razor wire fence.

Interior Ministry data shows the state has so far spent EUR 23.25 million for the fencing to be put in place and another EUR 3.6 million for its maintenance.

In her presentation in parliament before the confirmation of the government, Interior Minister Tatjana Bobnar said “technical obstacles” should be removed from the southern border, “so that nobody will ever die on this route again”.

The idea is for the fence to be replaced with surveillance by means of cameras and drones, as set down in the coalition agreement. The minister also said she planned to engage the civil society, NGOs and local communities in the efforts to deal with illegal migration.

The ministry says it will start working on an operative plan to remove the fence this week and should complete it by the end of June. A public call will need to be published to select a contractor to remove the fence.

The decision to put up a fence on what is an external Schengen border was taken by the centre-left government of Miro Cerar (2014-18) in the late autumn 2015 as hundreds of thousands of migrants heading to Europe along the Balkan route passed Slovenia on to their way to destination countries.

On 22 October 2015, about a month after Hungary started erecting razor wire on its border with Slovenia, Prime Minister Cerar pledged his government would do all that was necessary to protect the country, including by erecting a border fence, unless Europe came up with a common solution.

Three days later, Slovenian troops started placing razor wire along the Croatian border in the Rigonce area, one of the hotspots at the time. By the end of the year, 150 kilometres of razor wire fence had been put up on the border.

Despite promises that the fence would be removed as soon as the migration wave receded, this never happened, but most of the razor wire had been replaced by what is seen as more humane and wildlife-friendly wielded fence.

The erection of the fence had been accompanied by protests by the locals, human rights activists and environmentalists as it cut through communities, disrupted daily chores, damaged tourism and business and posed a life threat to wild animals.

Even now the locals say that the fence has done nothing to stop migrants and refugees, but it has made life along the border miserable.

The fence also marred relations with Croatia, which issued several notes to call for its removal.