News 27 Jan 16

Macedonia Hails Slovene Plan to Stop Migrants

Macedonia has welcomed Slovenia's plan for security on Macedonia's border with Greece to be increased in order to stem the flow of migrants moving towards Western Europe.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Photo by: Robert Atanasovski

Macedonia's Foreign Ministry told BIRN that the Slovenian initiative, which calls for greater EU support to reinforce the Macedonian border, was a good idea that would relieve pressure on the country, which lies right on the Western Balkan route taken by refugees and migrants.

“Macedonia welcomes all initiatives for help and assistance coming from the EU. This crisis with migrants concerns us dearly and we are waiting to see how this plan will be put in effect,” the Foreign Ministry told BIRN.

The Slovenian plan essentially envisages that most of the migrants who are now entering Greece would stay there.

This would reduce pressure on Western Balkan countries that are on the refugee route and ultimately curb the flow of migrants to countries like Germany and Austria.

Amid criticism that Greece is failing to curb the flow of migrants to other EU countries, Brussels has confirmed that it is considering strengthening border controls in Macedonia.

The European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, has backed the Slovenian plan to practically move the EU border for migrants from Greece to Macedonia.

According to POLITICO news site, in a letter sent on Monday, Juncker gave clear support for the Slovenian initiative.

 “I welcome your suggestion,” Juncker wrote to Slovenia’s Prime Minister, Miro Cerar, assuring him that the Commission supported his plan for all EU countries to “provide assistance [to Macedonia] to support controls on the border with Greece through the secondment of police/law enforcement officers and the provision of equipment.”

POLITICO says it saw a copy of the letter.

Juncker further wrote that since Macedonia was not an EU member state, EU countries would have to reach bilateral agreements with Skopje to be able to send their own police forces to the border.

However, he also urged changing the rules that currently prevent the deployment of EU frontier, Frontex, officers outside EU territory.

Germany, Austria and The Netherlands have recently strongly criticized Greece for not preventing the flow of migrants and have threatened to exclude Athens from the passport-free Schengen zone if it fails to do more to control its borders.

The member states "gave a clear signal" that if they cannot stop the migrants from reaching Greece, they will consider helping Greece's neighbour, Macedonia, to better seal its border to slow the movement of migrants to other European countries, Dutch State Secretary Klaas Dijkhoff told a meeting of EU ministers in Amsterdam on Monday.

Despite the onset of winter, more than 2,000 people are still arriving in Greece daily, mostly through the sea route from Turkey, EU figures show. Athens is under pressure to register and keep those coming in.

Macedonian police on Tuesday said that some 2.500 people entered Macedonia on their way towards Western European countries. However, Macedonia, now only lets in refugees from war-torn countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, while keeping the others at bay.

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