STA, 9 July 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has dismissed ideas by senior Italian officials that a fence should be erected on the Slovenian-Italian border, telling the National Assembly that such proposals had to be interpreted "in the domestic policy context".
"In talks with the Italian government we will state that there are no reasons for the border, this is clear from the numbers ... Italy is not threatened by Slovenia's inactivity, and we will substantiate that," he said.
Šarec made the comment when he was quizzed by opposition MPs in parliament on Tuesday about the recent launch of mixed police patrols on the border, their implication being that the beefed up controls are the result of Slovenia's failure to properly protect the Schengen border.
Stressing that the number of persons Italy returned to Slovenia had dropped by 17% in the first half of 2019 compared to the same period last year, Šarec said Slovenian police were doing all they could to protect the Schengen border and curb illegal migrations.
Border patrols are "not a measure that would squeeze Slovenia out of the Schengen zone," as Democrat (SDS) MP Branko Grims claimed, as Italy has such cooperation with all of its neighbours and Slovenia also had such mixed patrols on its other borders, according to Šarec.
New Slovenia (NSi) deputy Jernej Vrtovec wondered why Slovenia had proposed mixed patrols, labelling it an admission of its inability to control the Schengen border. But Šarec stressed that it was not the government that had proposed joint patrols, this was the result of an agreement at the level of both police forces.
For Šarec, the key thing to dam migrations is for Frontex, the EU's border agency, to be deployed on Croatia's borders with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.
Overall, border control is "a serious issue that the new EU Commission will have to tackle with all seriousness... Migrations will be with us for years to come ... the EU is not active in tackling these issues," he said, adding: "Schengen is de facto not working anymore."
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini recently suggested Italy might erect a fence on its border with Slovenia if joint police patrols do not suffice to stop migrations, raising fears of a return to border checks that would severely disrupt life along the border.
While the right has taken the announcement as evidence of Slovenia's failings, politicians on the left have started urging the government to take action to prevent such a scenario from unfolding.
Social Democrat (SD) deputy Matjaž Nemec thus urged Šarec today to take the initiative and invite the prime ministers of all countries on the Western Balkan migration route, including Italy and Austria, to jointly tackle the issue.
But others think Italy will do as it likes regardless of what Slovenia does.
Robert Polnar, an MP for the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), said Italy's measures would probably be harsher than the measures Slovenia is adopting.
And Luka Mesec, the leader of the Left, said Salvini was "playing his game" in order to win the election in Italy.
"What the Slovenian right is doing, and partially the government by starting to announce drones and fencing ... is acquiescing to this game... Our politicians are dancing to Sallvini's tune, Mesec said on the margins of the plenary today.