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EU, Balkan Leaders Agree On Migrant Plan

  • RFE/RL

A man carrying his child waits with other migrants and refugees to be registered at a refugee center in Presevo, Serbia, on October 25.

A man carrying his child waits with other migrants and refugees to be registered at a refugee center in Presevo, Serbia, on October 25.

Officials in Croatia said on October 26 that more than 13,000 migrants have crossed the border from Serbia over the last 24 hours.

Police in Slovenia said the same day that nearly 10,000 migrants have entered Slovenia from Croatia. And authorities in Germany said 15,000 migrants crossed into that country from Austria over the weekend.

European and Balkan leaders meeting in Brussels on October 25 agreed to a 17-point plan of cooperation to manage flows of migrants through the Balkan peninsula.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says part of the plan agreed includes setting up 100,000 more places in migrant centers along the route from Greece to Germany.

Juncker said the United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, would help Greece increase its reception capacity for refugees to 30,000 places by the end of 2015.

He said Greece and the UNHCR also would work together to provide rent subsidies and host family programs for at least another 20,000 more people as “a pre-condition to make the emergency relocation scheme work.”

He said financial support for Greece and the UNHCR is expected.

Juncker said the UNHCR also will support an increase in the capacity of refugee reception centers by another 50,000 places along the western Balkans migrant route.

He said support for those projects would come from international financial institutions like the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Development Bank of the Council of Europe.

Juncker also said that all Balkan leaders at the summit have committed to sharing information about refugee flows and to refrain from making unilateral decisions “whose effects are inevitably borne by others.”

The EU border agency Frontex is to step up activity along Macedonia’s borders with Greece and Albania along with an increased role for the UNHCR to ensure migrants trying to cross are registered.

Frontex also plans to help reinforce the border between Bulgaria and Turkey.

Juncker told reporters early on October 26 that “the policy of simply waving people through must be stopped.”

Another aspect of the 17-point plan is to increase police action against migrant smugglers and human traffickers with support from Europol, Frontex, and Interpol.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had pushed for the mini-summit to be called, said after the talks that "Europe must show it is a continent of values, a continent of solidarity.”

Merkel described the 17-point plan as “a building block,” but she said “we need to take many further steps."

Earlier at the talks in Brussels, Slovenia’s Prime Minister Miro Cerar warned that the burden posed by an influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants into southern Europe -- mostly from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan -- threatens to lead to “the end of the European Union as such.”

On October 24, Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia warned that they would not allow themselves to become a “buffer zone.”

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said in Sofia after talks between the leaders of the three countries that they would all close their borders “at the very same moment” if Germany, Austria and other countries in western Europe close their borders.

Refugees have continued to come through the western Balkans and have shifted west into Slovenia after Hungary erected border fencing.

Since Oct. 17, more than 62,000 migrants have arrived in Slovenia, with some 14,000 passing through the country on October 25.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa
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