Italy’s Salvini Proposes “Wall” Along Slovenian Border If Anti-Migrant Patrols Fail

By , 05 Jul 2019, 18:36 PM Politics

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STA, 5 July 2019 - While protests are being held on Friday in the Slovenian-Italian border area against the planned border control measures, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini spoke on the phone with his Slovenian counterpart Boštjan Poklukar to discuss migration and enhancing cooperation in this field.

Poklukar and Salvini, who visited Trieste today for a port investment contract signing and to discuss border protection with Friuli Venezia Giulia President Massimiliano Fedriga, welcomed the start of Slovenian-Italian police patrols on the border.

According to the press release from the Slovenian Interior Ministry, Poklukar noted that it was not the first time Slovenia responded to Italian proposals for joint operations.

The Slovenian minister pointed to the assistance by the Slovenian Armed Forces in the maritime operation Mare Nostrum with the Triglav patrol boat in 2013 and projects to transfer persons in need of international protection from Italy to Slovenia.

The Slovenian and Italian police forces launched joint border patrols on 1 July as a response to the increase in illegal migration. The measure is expected to be in force until the end of September.

The Slovenian Interior Ministry told the STA today that the initiative for the mixed patrols had come from the Italian police on 29 April. The Slovenian police agreed with the proposal and Poklukar presented it to the government.

Subsequently, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar presented it to his Italian counterpart Enzo Moavero Milanesi and both countries agreed to implement it.

The two countries' police commissioners discussed the planned cooperation in more detail at the sidelines of a conference of police commissioners in Rome, the ministry said.

Salvini reiterated yesterday that if the border patrols failed to serve the purpose, Italy would erect physical barriers on the border with Slovenia. "We will make the border with Slovenia impenetrable with all available means."

Poklukar stressed that Slovenia was protecting its border with Croatia effectively and that the situation was under control. He said that special attention should be paid to the entire Western Balkan migration route and take appropriate measures.

The Italian and Slovenian interior ministers agreed that they would meet in person soon to talk about the possibilities of further bilateral cooperation as well as cooperation with the countries in the region.

According to the Austrian press agency APA, Salvini also talked today about measures to beef up the control of the Balkan route with Croatian Interior Minister Davor Božinović.

The Italian press agency ANSA reported that Salvini said in Trieste today that "joint patrols by Italy, Slovenia and Croatia are something we are establishing, and we will see what the results will be".

The police forces of the three countries are expected to also enhance cooperation in fighting trafficking of illegal migrants.

Asked about the joint Slovenian-Italian-Croatian patrols, the Slovenian Interior Ministry said it could not go into detail at this point.

Several protests are meanwhile being held or are to be held in the area on both sides of the border and on border crossings to express opposition to the idea and to call for open borders.

Some 50 people have gathered in the main square in Trieste to protest against Salvini's policy of closure of Italian sea ports for migrants. People are also protesting in other parts of Trieste as the minister is visiting the city.

Slovenian politicians mostly against proposed border fence

STA, 5 July 2019 - Slovenian parliamentary parties and MEPs are critical of Italy's announcement it could set up "physical barriers" on the border with Slovenia if Slovenian-Italian border police patrols, introduced on 1 July, do not result in fewer illegal migrants. The patrols, on the other hand, continue to divide Slovenian politics.

Current developments in relations with Italy are "a total disaster" and proof that "our government is impotent security- and development-wise", opposition Democrat (SDS) MP Branko Grims told the press on Friday.

He believes the Bosnian-Croatian border should be properly protected, while Slovenia should properly protect its part of the Schengen border - its southern border with Croatia.

If that border was sealed, then Austria's and Italy's moves would be superfluous, said Grims, who believes the Slovenian police and the army, if it was given adequate powers, would have no problem protecting Slovenia's southern border.

The SDS's MEP Romana Tomc (EPP) meanwhile believes the announced fence on the border with Italy "presents a threat that Slovenia could become a migration pocket, which would undoubtedly worsen our security and seriously affect our economy".

The coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) believes a fence on the border inside the Schengen zone would be "unacceptable and un-European", and statistics do not corroborate it. What the EU needs is an effective supervision of its external borders.

The SMC believes the joint patrols are meant to build trust, with Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's LMŠ noting they were about preventing the smuggling of illegal migrants and fighting against smugglers.

Meanwhile, both MEPs from the ruling LMŠ believe Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini's announcement of a fence was meant foremost to appease Italian voters.

"Physical barriers in the Schengen area are unacceptable, they would be a major step backwards and a major attack on the EU's basic values," wrote MEPs Irena Joveva and Klemen Grošelj (Renew Europe).

If the Italian government keeps insisting on the fence, Joveva and Grošelj intend to bring the issue up in the European Parliament, but certainly at their political grouping's meeting with Ursula von der Leyen, the candidate for the nee European Parliament president.

The same would be done by MEPs Ljudmila Novak (EPP/New Slovenia (NSi)) and Tanja Fajon (S&D/Social Democrats (SD)).

Fajon urged Slovenia's authorities to do all in their power for solidarity to re-emerge in Europe and for a common migration and asylum policy be formed.

Novak expects the Slovenian government to "immediately condemn such announcements" and do all in its power to stop illegal migrations on the border with Croatia.

She said the mixed patrols on the Slovenian-Italian border would be no problem had they not been fuelled by a rise in illegal migrations on the Croatian border.

The NSi, convinced the patrols are a mistake, demanded yesterday a session of the parliamentary foreign policy and interior policy committees to discuss them.

Its MP Jernej Vrtovec said never again wanted the Slovenians living on both sides of the border, which is a single economic and cultural area, to be divided with a wall or even a wire.

The trend of erecting barriers should worry the entire EU, said MP Matjaž Nemec of the coalition SD, as a fence on the Slovenian-Italian border would be a measure disproportionate with illegal crossings of the border.

Nemec also believes the dialogue between the Slovenian and Italian interior ministers, who spoke on the phone today, was no longer constructive.

He thus called on Prime Minister Marjan Šarec to start dialogue with the Italian prime minister.

Just like the SDS, Nemec believes the focus should be on the Croatian-Bosnian border as the outer EU border.

Saying the fence was no answer to the migrant issue, opposition Left MP Primož Siter said the rhetoric of Slovenia and Italy's right-wingers was the same.

"The only difference is that the Slovenian right has already got its wire [on the border with Croatia], while the Italian right is now calling for it."

Noting the EU lacked a common approach to illegal migrations, which forced each country to deal with them on its own, the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) said Italy was dealing with them in line with its nationalist policy.

However, DeSUS also said the Slovenian Interior Ministry and the Slovenian police were trying to relativise the issue of illegal migrations.

The coalition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) would rather boost the control of Slovenia's border with Croatia, where Italy and Austria could help in.

"The mixed police patrols on our western border are an un-European move, just as is Austria's border control on the northern border," the SAB told the STA.

The opposition National Party (SNS) believes the mixed patrols are nonsense.

Its leader Zmago Jelinčič criticised Foreign Minister Mira Cerar for having come up with the idea, wondering whether he tried to Italy's support for his bid to become a European commissioner.

Just like the SAB, Jelinčič believes Slovenia should have "double patrols" on the border with Croatia, which could also be mixed.

While MEP Fajon believes "there is absolutely no serious need for patrols on the border between Slovenia and Italy", MEP France Bogovič (EPP/SLS) welcomed them, but noted Slovenia should do more to protect its Schengen border with Croatia.

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