Slovenia has become the latest focus of Europe’s ongoing migration crisis. Last weekend, (17-18 October) some 3,000 migrants and refugees crossed the border by trains from Croatia, with thousands more expected to follow soon. For all of them, Slovenia is just another transit country on their long way to Western Europe. After Hungary closed its borders with Serbia and Croatia to migrants, the Balkan route has changed, with tens of thousands of Syrians, Afghanis, and Iraqis now streaming into Slovenia, eager to ultimately reach Germany. Hungary’s right-wing government has built a fence along its southern border to stem the migrant flow, arguing that it is it duty to halt an influx of migrants that it says threatens prosperity, security and what it calls the “Christian values” of Europe.
As the influx continues to move towards Germany, government in Slovenia said it wouldn’t be able to accept thousands of migrants a day. As migrants remained stranded between EU Member States Slovenia and Croatia, Slovenian police blocked to border check points to prevent them from crossing into the country. As Slovenia’s State Secretary Bostjan Sefic explained, “We cannot accept an unlimited number of migrants if we know they can not continue their journey,” adding that “In a very short time, in maybe ten days, we would have 35,000 migrants in Slovenia, which is unacceptable for us.” Meanwhile, Slovenia’s neighbor, Bulgaria, warned that its authorities couldn’t check if incoming refugees are registered as criminals or terrorists in the Schengen Information System. This puts the EU in danger, because, as said Deputy Prime Minister Meglena Kuneva stressed, it is blocked from joining the borderless space.
In a separate but related development, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday (18 October) that her country is ready to help drive forward Turkey’s European Union accession process and extend support to Ankara in exchange for Turkish help in reducing the flow of refugees to Europe. During a joint news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara, Merkel asked “How can we organize the accession process more dynamically?” while adding that “Germany is ready this year to open Chapter 17, and the make preparations for (chapters) 23 and 24. We can talk about the details.” The Chancellor also suggested that in return for Turkey’s agreeing – in line with the so-called “readmission agreements” – to taking in more quickly migrants sent back by the EU, Germany could help accelerate the path to visa-free travel to the EU for Turks and push forward Ankara’s protracted EU membership talks.