Austria and Hungary have pledged more support to Serbia in protecting the border with North Macedonia. In return, Serbia wants to tighten its visa rules for countries from which a particularly large number of migrants are currently entering the EU illegally. During a meeting between Interior Minister Gerhard Karner and Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg (both ÖVP) with colleagues from Serbia and Hungary in Belgrade on Thursday, the migration situation on the “Balkan route” was discussed.
During a joint press conference with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vulin, Interior Minister Karner thanked Serbia for its commitment to align visa rules with those of the European Union. People from India and Tunisia, among others, can currently enter Serbia without a visa and have recently increasingly used smugglers to travel to the EU. According to Karner, Austria was particularly affected.
Austria promised technical support
In return, Serbia receives support from Austria and Hungary to protect its southern border with North Macedonia. Specific details were not given, these need to be clarified at an official level. According to the Ministry of the Interior, Austria will mainly provide technical support to Serbia.
Serbia does not want to be a “parking place for migrants”.
Vulin also spoke of financial support from Hungary and Austria to strengthen existing police patrols on the Serbian border. However, there should be no new hotspots or reception centers for migrants. Serbia does not want to be a “parking lot for migrants,” Vulin said. “Serbia, Hungary and Austria have a common problem and must therefore solve it together,” said the Serbian interior minister. Given the “explosion” in the number of migrants, which is certainly comparable to that in 2015, this is “no longer a humanitarian crisis, it is about criminals”.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó put it in a similar way, speaking of a “siege” of Hungary’s southern border by migrants, some of whom were armed. “For us, this is not a question of human rights, but a question of violating the laws of our country,” Szijjártó said.
‘Karner: fight against people smugglers also a matter of human rights’
Karner did not want to completely brush off the subject of human rights: “The fight against people smugglers is also a human rights issue, because the people smugglers violate human rights,” he said. Szijjártó rejected reports of mistreatment of migrants on the Serbian-Hungarian border. Karner requested that such reports be reported to the authorities.