Cerar’s Letter

The report issued by the German police which explains in full detail the rampage of the migrants and their terror over the citizens celebrating New Year’s Eve in front of the Cologne Cathedral, made it clear that some response was imminent. Following this report’s description of chaotic and disgraceful events: organised attacks on police by means of various explosive devices, throwing of empty bottles on masses during the celebration and sexual violence against women, an estimate was given that among the identified attackers, there were those asking for asylum, that is, most of them. Their explanation was that they were untouchable and had to be treated with respect as they had allegedly been invited to the country by the German Chancellor.

The response was inevitable. At the closed meeting held by the German leading party, it was determined that rules must be established which would ensure faster repatriation of the asylum-seekers and announcements were made regarding the intention to close the country’s borders.

The brutality, with which the migrants attempted to prove that “everything is allowed” and “no-one can do anything about it” and that no legal sanctions are in place against it because of mandatory humanity which must be shown toward the refugees, was a point beyond which no political explanation would suffice. The event in Cologne marked the start of the third period of finding the solution to migrant’s quest to Europe. The first period was marked primarily by Brussels’ being bewildered while tracking the wave of migrants making their way through FYR Macedonia and Serbia towards Hungary and further to the “promised” West. It was all happening more or less far away from us, somewhere in the Balkans, and consequently, these states were left to cope with it as they found fit.

More or less for the show, the European government arranged meetings and created quite illusory plans about the number of migrants to be received by each country.

The second period was marked by the Hungary’s construction of the wall along its border with Serbia and the establishment of a new route along which the migrants moved toward Croatia and Slovenia. Then we witnessed an unusually quick aggravation of political relations between Belgrade and Zagreb, along with the revival of the vocabulary typical of the recent war and economic sanctions. And above all, it was marked with the discussions in Germany focusing on how many migrants can be accepted by Germany. The policy of Angela Merkel towards refugees and migrants was openly opposed. The internal revolt against the German Chancellor in other capitals of Europe was understood as a reminder of how this situation would reflect on the enormous and dominant authority of Angela Merkel in Brussels and consequently, it was understood as the sign that it was time for each country to find a solution for itself and not to wait for joint European agreement. By travelling to Ankara, Mrs. Merkel attempted to make a deal with the Turkish President to retain the majority of refugees within Turkey. However, the reduction of their numbers could be more easily attributed to cold weather than to Turkey’s active pursuit of this policy. Soon afterwards, Sweden, Denmark and Germany closed their borders.

This marked the beginning of the third period of finding a solution to a huge wave of migrants which was very precisely pointed out by a socialist Werner Faymann, after the meeting of the governments and governors and mayors in Vienna yesterday, when he said that “It is time to think about our own countries and our own citizens first and to think of Europe second”.

The terror in Cologne was the line which showed that there are limits when it comes to accepting refugees. Each state may only take as many migrants as it is capable of integrating into its society.

The first to do it was Sweden, the country in which socialists are in power. The country which used to be an example of social justice and welfare, known for welcoming the migrants. However, the border was literally closed. The tickets for ferries or buses traversing the famous bridge, signifying the entrance into the country, could only be purchased upon presenting adequate documents.

Immediately afterwards, different internal estimates were given whether the governments in Berlin and Vienna would make the entrance to the countries more difficult for the migrants, since, namely, the limits of what was acceptable had already been crossed. In fact, this signified the start of the border closing process and the returning of the majority of migrants from Germany and Austria back to Slovenia and then across the borders of South Eastern Europe to Greece and Turkey.

Leaving aside the suffering of those whose journey would be reversed, it is not difficult to image the political consequences it would have on the relationships among the countries in this part of Europe. And also because, a few months ago, we have already witnessed such circumstances. I primarily refer to the accusations flying between the governments in Zagreb and Belgrade. And now, Sarajevo may also become entangled in this interstate dispute, because available data make it possible to envisage that a huge wave of migrants, after the closure of the Croatia’s borders, would seek an alternative path across Bosnia. The consequences of such possible new tensions between these countries, despite looking for attenuating and pacifying circumstances, can hardly be predicted without expecting new instabilities and hostilities to be at the doorstep of this region.

A letter was recently written and sent to mandatory addresses in Europe by Slovenia’s Prime Minister Dr Miro Cerar in which he primarily provides his reflections on the causes and consequences of the European political decision to impose restrictions and limitations on refugees’ movement, without finding common solutions.

Prior to publication of his letter – a diplomatic initiative of a sort – he consulted the Prime Ministers of Macedonia and Serbia, Nikola Gruevski and Aleksandar Vučić, respectively, and received reliable signals that they would not oppose such a proposal.

A formal response from Brussels is expected to arrive within days. The letter was sent with perfect timing, any time earlier than that would have been too soon since the reality of agreement with Turkey has not yet been confirmed.

The key idea behind the Cerar’s initiative is to establish another line along which the refugees attempting to reach EU countries would be slowed down and checked at the border crossings between Greece and FYR Macedonia. It is a 230 km long relatively straight borderline – once the border between the NATO Alliance and former Yugoslavia. This is where help from the European police force and specialised European agencies, with adequate material aid, could actually be provided to all the refugees needing help and escaping wars and who seek asylum to which, in the first safe country, they would have been entitled. All those who didn’t meet the requirements for asylum would be denied. Thus border-crossing would be avoided, and most of all, the unpredictable repatriation of refugees from one country to the next as well as all related disputes and complications.

Cerar offered an acceptable European solution.

However, one other problem persists. Slovenia cherishes good diplomatic relations with all the countries directly involved in this issue. Several days ago, Cerar paid a visit to Mrs. Merkel, the Minister of Internal Affairs Mrs. Vesna Gyorkos Žnidar spoke yesterday with her Austrian counterpart, while the Minister of Foreign Affair Mr.  Karl Erjavec, took a diplomatic tour of the Balkans.

However, it is obvious there are no genuine talks with Croatia as one of the countries along the existing refugee path. There are several reasons behind it. One of them, an important one, is that the neighbour lacks a government. Currently, there is no adequate person to talk to and agree with the content and implementation of the Cerar’s proposition. Most likely, one will not be available for quite some time. Naturally, the new Prime Minister, Mr. Tihomir Orešković and elected and newly appointed Ministers of Internal and Foreign Affairs would take office too, but it would take some time before they start reaching decisions. And time is precisely what is lacking in current circumstances and particularly in case of Cologne. I believe that the possible solution is the only relevant and effective political path between the two countries – good relations between the President Borut Pahorje and the Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović.

Cerar’s initiative is at the moment the only one which can prevent inconceivable consequences arising from the closure of the German and Austrian borders, only to be followed by the closure of Slovenian, Croatian, Serbian and Macedonian borders. It is the only initiative proposing to resolve the consequences of returning refugees from one country to another and their probable rejection upon return.