It is true that the first forecasts could already be heard last year, in late autumn. But they seemed more as a warning about the possible consequences than as an intention. And then it happened, the first day, immediately after the end of the New Year celebration. Sweden has started to check documents of passengers arriving from neighbouring Denmark. And right after that, just a few hours later, the same measures, on the border with Germany, have been introduced by Denmark. Both for the limitation of influx of refugees without documents. Important political agreement of the European countries on free border crossing has been directly cancelled for the first time since its adoption. Europe fears a new refugee wave. European governments estimate that it is not anymore only about operational issues related to their accommodation, adaptation to a new environment, new language and culture, or security problems associated with it, but that the refugees in search for new a life change established voting preferences of citizens. That the area of tolerance and understanding is limited and that the uncontrolled and excessive influx of asylum seekers would radicalize political demands, not only in relation to refugees, but also with regard to all the differences in the society. The reintroduction of border crossing control, within this understanding, seems understood.
Maybe it was the decision of the Danish government on the introduction of control over the border crossing with Germany that made the essential one, the decision that will shift the debates and, primary, intentions of closing of internal European borders, back to the joint tolerant discussion on resolving the causes and searching for joint solutions to large refugee influx into Europe. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, simply cannot afford closing of German borders. It would be politically rather dangerous. She mentioned this to the president of the European Commission, Juncker, during their meeting.
European Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, has convened a meeting of representatives of all three countries on Tuesday, the second working day of this year. Not only so they could mutually explain the measures on the Swedish-Danish and German border, but also to reopen the question of a joint European coast guard and border police, as well as a new main intelligence service. As well as to neutralize new announcements on what was not discussed in this meeting, of a new and different union of states to which the Schengen regime would apply.
Probably the most influential and well-informed Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, wrote about that the same day. The newspaper has announced, in particular, special measures of control at the borders with Slovenia, if the number of migrants arriving in Italy via the Slovenian border increases. The Italian ministry of interior and their secret services have been following the announcements since several months. They have been announced several times by our political representatives, for such or different popular reasons, on a new large refugee wave in the spring months. However, the estimation of new refugees was not the most problematic one, but the fact that they would choose a new organized route. The warm sea route, via Albania, Montenegro and Croatia to Istria and then through Slovenia to Italy, was considered. Precisely these assumptions were the reason that the then Croatian prime minister Zoran Milanović closed, in October last year, and officially called it a restricted movement at the border point, the Prevlaka peninsula, between Croatia and Montenegro, with a kind of wire obstacles, later named special fence. It was primarily a message to its neighbours, said Milanović, for them not to direct a possible refugee flow to Dubrovnik and Dalmatia. Both political rivals, and it was already pre-election period, Milanović and his challenger Tomislav Karamarko, visited Prevlaka alternatively, with extremely worried faces, and proved with their statements, the first one that the government in Zagreb had completely under its control the situation, and the latter, that they were enclosing the border because of their incompetence. On this occasion, Italian authorities were paying even more attention to various statements on a higher number of registered, but not retained, suspected individuals from the security point of view, who were hiding in the crowd of refugees. And thus analyzed and checked the possible consequences of the new, announced refugee route even more.
The closure of the Danish-Swedish Oresund Bridge was a sufficient reason for the announcement of the abovementioned Italian newspaper of possible same measures on the border with Slovenia. The newspaper, of course, did not invent the announcement. It had received it, with a request of publication. Just like so many years before, when the Italian media announced increased and stricter control at the borders with Slovenia. It was at the time of preparation for Schengen. Back then, during a time of substantially different relations, I was a guest in Rome, as the Slovenian minister of the interior, to my Italian colleague Rosa Russo Iervolino. A thoughtful lady, who was listening carefully above all. Her colleagues were writing down, and giving her the papers with their notes. The subject was refugees. Back then, we talked about possibly ten thousand individuals, primarily from the countries of former Yugoslavia, which searched ways to Italy as well through our country. Slovenia was already partly involved in the Schengen process back then. A senior police officer Marko Gašperlin was the absolute authority of the process and also an excellent and recognized interlocutor of primarily German and Austrian colleagues, who had some type of trusteeship over our operational preparations for the takeover of part of the external borders of Europe. That’s why I was having regular meetings with primarily German and Austrian interior ministers during that year. And a number of American interlocutors, who observed the situation in the Western Balkans and, consequently, the flow of refugees. The visit to Rome had a different objective. After the protocolary meeting in the premises of the ministry, at the minister’s office, we continued our dialogue in some sort of residence of the ministry and the police, a beautiful building on the banks of the Tiber. Iztok Podvršič, then police chief and secretary of state, unfortunately deceased, Slavko Debelak, were listing all the measures of control at the borders. In particular, it was evident that the interlocutors were estimating their planned decisions on additional security of the Italian-Slovenian border. They were afraid of new refugees. What we were emphasizing was convincing and reliable. The meeting was completed successfully. The then state border between countries remained unchanged.
That same fear, the fear of a possible wave of refugees that would begin to uncontrollably come to Friuli – Venezia Giulia, is the cause for the warning published by the Italian newspaper. Just as with the meeting with the European Commissioner Avramopoulos, the message of this newspaper is almost identical. It is necessary to strengthen the control of the European external borders in order not to be forced to introduce individual measures of internal closure of borders. Whit such a call, we must not forget the unspoken. And the subject of the manoeuvres in the individual government cabinets. Initiatives of the so-called mini or different, smaller and better connected Schengen area, are no longer just publicists’ thoughts, but remain realistic political option.
Slovenian membership in the community of European countries connected by open borders is certainly implicit. For both the governing policy and all the citizens as well. And the problem is in the fact that the open borders of Europe are no longer something that is understood.
Slovenian police, primarily a well-coordinated duo, managing director Marjan Fank and the state secretary Boštjan Šefic, have carried out a large and important work during recent months. The police have been performing the agreed tasks despite a number of demands for the cancellation of border checking and performance of records of people who cross the border without documents, in fact in arbitrary crossing among the countries outside the European borders.
This is why the Brussels meeting held on Tuesday and the announcement of the newspaper Corriere della Sera have another point, at least for the members of the Slovenian government. On the price of security of an individual and the state. This simply means that the Slovenian government must immediately come to an agreement with the police, which is on strike, and provide them with all the necessary conditions for work. Also for consistent and agreed securing of external borders of Europe.