Conference on Eastern Mediterranean-Western Balkans route in Luxembourg in October 2015 / / EPNA, Brussels

One day after the EU summit in Brussels, Slovenia and Croatia have halted immediately the transit of refugees through their countries. Greece meanwhile welcomed the EU-Turkey deal reached on Monday, but some Eastern countries already pointed out that they might not fully comply with the terms.

One day after the EU-Turkey summit, where the EU leaders stated that the “irregular flows of migrants along the Western Balkans route have now come to an end,” this exact same route was actually sealed off by Slovenia and Croatia.

Both countries announced to ban the transit of migrants from other EU countries. Only refugees who are entitled to seek for asylum on their territory will be allowed to cross the border.

Those who had the chance to ask for asylum earlier on on their road to other countries like Serbia or Turkey will be sent back to those countries.

Slovenia will fully apply the Schengen border code and stop irregular migrants with immediate effect, the Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar announced on Wednesday (March 9). (audio in Slovenian)

“As member states of the European Union, we adopted the statement that now the Balkan route is closing. It is time to fully implement Schengen. Slovenia especially committed itself to this at the government’s meeting of February 19, when we adopted this resolution,” Cerar said.

“In agreement with the other states, we waited until this summit to implement it. From now, Slovenia and the other states that are the guardians of Schengen will fully apply these rules.”

All countries on the Western Balkans route will use all legal means available to stop the migrants, Cerar added.

However, the Croatian Interior Minister Vlaho Orepić refused to speak about “closing the Western Balkans route.” (audio in Croatian)

“I wouldn’t use the ‘border closing’ term, because that’s not what this is all about. It’s in fact the full implementation of the Schengen rules which need to be followed by the appropriate reaction of those who are not Schengen area members,” Orepić said.

“This is not about shutting down the Balkans route; this is about returning to the border control management which was in place before the refugee crisis. Slovenia will implement Schengen on our borders and we will implement standard checks on all our borders as well.”

Surprisingly Council President Donald Tusk thanked both countries for their move on Twitter:

Poland and Hungary opposed to take in refugees from Turkey

The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán wanted the “closure” of the Western Balkans route to be mentioned in the conclusions of EU leader meeting on Monday, but this exact wording was successfully opposed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

After the meeting, Orbán said that the text still outlines that the borders are to be closed. He welcomed the fact that “an era is finished” and that “the text says that the practice when the route through the Balkan could be used without any control is over.”

He also underlined the limits for Hungary in the deal with Turkey. (audio in Hungarian)

“Yes, there are several red lines. The text which has been accepted states that we should bring people from Turkey to Europe. We are clearly against this. Moreover, we have stated that together with Slovakia, we made a “Reservation of Rights Statement,” Orbán said.

“We have declared that we proceed against the previous decisions of the EU. We proceed against the decisions concerning the transfer of migrants. Therefore we cannot support this text.”

“However, we do not prevent other countries to accept this text. But we have made the ‘Reservation of Rights Statement’ and we insist on our decision to bring the previous decision of the European Commission to trial and to try to repeal this decision.”

Matteo Renzi, Joseph Muscat and Viktor Orbán at meeting of heads of state or government with Turkey on March 8, 2016 / / EPNA, Brussels

Matteo Renzi, Joseph Muscat and Viktor Orbán at meeting with Turkey

The Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo hailed the deal with Turkey as a “big step towards an end of the migration crisis.”

According to Szydlo, the agreement will include a clause requested by Poland not to introduce mandatory quotas for the intake of refugees by the EU member states. (audio in Polish)

“We have an agreement. We have now a common work plan with Turkey. The most important thing for me is my request that was added in the final text of the agreement, an amendment, that there will be no new commitments on the resettlement and relocation of refugees,” Szydlo said.

Tsipras backs deal with Turkey

On their meeting on Monday, the EU leaders had agreed on principles for a deal with Turkey, including the “return of all irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into Greek islands.”

On Tuesday (March 8), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in the European Parliament that he was “deeply concerned by any arrangement that would involve the indiscriminate return of people from one country to another, which would not provide the guarantees of refugee protection under international law.”

The Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who hosted his Turkish counterpart Ahmed Davutoglu on Tuesday evening, welcomed the deal.

Establishing a legal route to Europe from Turkey will help dealing with human traffickers and put an end to the toll of refugees drowning in Aegean sea, Tsipras wrote on Twitter.

No doubt, the EU refugee deal with Turkey foresees close cooperation between Greece and Turkey.

The migration crisis also brings Germany and Greece closer together since both countries have a major interest to end the crisis.

  • Author: Daniele Weber, Euranet Plus News Agency
  • Further image credits: (middle 1) Conference on Eastern Mediterranean-Western Balkans route in Luxembourg in October 2015 / / EPNA, Brussels | (middle 2) Matteo Renzi, Joseph Muscat and Viktor Orbán at meeting of heads of state or government with Turkey on March 8, 2016 / / EPNA, Brussels

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Turkey’s President Erdoğan must see hypocrisy when Europe is at the table. Europe is begging Turkey for help with the migration crisis, speaking of values, but outsourcing its conscience to Turkey.