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EU border control. Photo credit: Daniel Schludi

EU plan for Balkan route takes shape

Germany is pressing for the adoption of an urgent plan aimed at curbing entries from the Balkan route and Brussels is preparing to approve a document consisting of five fundamental points.

Published: December 8, 2022, 6:09 am

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    After the action plan for the central Mediterranean, the European Union is also preparing to present a plan for the Balkan route. That’s the one that scares Brussels the most right now. The increase in irregular arrivals by land, via the Balkan peninsula, rose by 168 percent in 2022 and this influenced the trend of the migratory flow towards northern Italy and northern Europe.

    The numbers that scare Europe

    The emblem of the failure of immigration policies in recent years is represented by two routes. The Libyan one which involves the central Mediterranean and the Balkan one. In the last five years no one has been able to manage and curb those flows, with many difficulties, especially in Italy.

    Italy could end 2022 by exceeding the threshold of one hundred thousand irregular entries again, as has not happened since 2017. This is a situation capable of destabilizing the Meloni government. It has already generated the first diplomatic tussle with France after the landing of an NGO ship in transalpine territory.

    After the rift between Rome and Paris, the EU has tried to intervene by presenting an action plan for the central Mediterranean. Now another plan has been put forward which concerns the Balkan route. As mentioned, here the increase in irregular entries was very high in percentage terms. And in absolute terms we are talking about at least 128 000 migrants who entered through trafficking in the Balkans.

    The EU runs for cover, but problems remain

    These are numbers that perhaps today arouse even more fears in the EU. Even if the Balkan route also involves Italy, it involves Germany above all. And if fists are banged on the table in Berlin, Europe is more inclined to intervene. In 2016, a record year for the Balkan route, the then government of Angela Merkel convinced the EU to pay out three billion euros to Turkey in order to close the eastern borders.

    The new action plan

    These days, there is less talk about money to shell out for illegals or, rather, no one actually dares mentioning any sum. The plan that will be presented and of which some details are already known, includes five fundamental points. The first is the strengthening of borders. It should be remembered that along this route the borders are terrestrial and therefore potentially more controllable than those of the central Mediterranean. Frontex should be called upon for greater collaboration with the border guards of the countries involved.

    The second point instead concerns the “guarantee of rapid access to asylum structures and support for the reception capacity in the countries”, as stated in the previews of the document leaked from Brussels. The third point is perhaps one of the most important at a political level, as it has to do with the fight against human traffickers. This argument has been repeatedly presented by the new Italian government.

    The fourth point is also important and has been indicated several times by Giorgia Meloni herself in recent days, namely a European regulation to speed up expulsions and repatriations.

    Finally, in the document there is also space for a visa alignment policy, with particular regard to Serbia. In fact, in recent years Belgrade has allowed visa-free access to citizens from countries such as Burundi, Tunisia and Egypt, who instead have a visa requirement to enter the EU.

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