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Managing illegal migration is a concern for the European Commission
The European Commission made public an action plan for the management of the illegal migrants arriving via the Western Balkans, whose numbers have reached record-high levels this year. The Commission is thus trying to alleviate the fears of some EU member countries and to step up negotiations on the new European Pact on Migration and Asylum.
The Western Balkans route has become a major point of migratory pressure, with the number of irregular migrants on this route up 168%, according to Frontex data. The situation raises particular concerns in Central European countries like Austria and the Czech Republic, which have strengthened border controls.
In the first 10 months of this year a total of over 280,000 illegal EU arrivals have been detected, more than 120,000 of which were on the Western Balks route. The EC plan comprises operational measures structured into 5 pillars: strengthening border management, swift asylum procedures and support reception capacity, fighting migrant smuggling, enhancing readmission cooperation and returns as well as achieving visa policy alignment.
Western Balkans countries are urged to align their visa regimes to the EU visa policy, because there are many cases of migrants arriving in Balkan countries that do not require visas, and from there they move illegally into Western Europe.
On the other hand, EU policymakers are confident that only an agreement like the European Pact on Migration and Asylum, first presented in September 2020, is able to meet the challenges created by the migration wave. However, member states have reserves concerning the refugee distribution mechanisms, which is why the initiative has not been adopted to date.
Unlike in 2016, the current plan does not explicitly stipulate refugee quotas, but it introduces a mandatory solidarity mechanism under which the Commission would still be able to set quotas for EU member states, depending on their population and economic development. The alternative for these countries would be other types of contributions, such as financing and repatriation of rejected asylum seekers, or the construction of refugee camps.
Romania welcomed the European Commission's Action Plan on the Western Balkans, and voiced confidence that the proposed measures and instruments are able to respond to concerns related to arrivals on the Western Balkans route this year, including those expressed by Austria.
Vienna is reluctant to accepting Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen area, for reasons related to the management of migration flows. Romania reiterates its willingness to make active and substantial contributions to the implementation of the measures proposed by the European Commission, in close cooperation with its other EU partners and in the spirit of solidarity and responsibility. (AMP)
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