Bilateral meeting – Schallenberg urges border controls in Slovenia

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During her first bilateral meeting with Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg in Ljubljana on Monday, Slovenia’s new Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon called on Austria to reconsider whether controls at the common border are still necessary. “We see no reason to continue controls at internal borders,” Fajon said, referring to the security risks. Schallenberg, on the other hand, currently sees “no alternative” to border controls.

“In the course of the Ukraine crisis, we are again faced with the phenomenon of abuse of the situation by human traffickers,” Schallenberg said at a joint press conference. As he emphasized, the number of illegal border crossings from Slovenia to Austria has increased by more than 120 percent in recent months. “There has to be a dialogue here and our need is that we restore the Schengen area in the long term as we knew it before 2015,” he added.

Border fence between Croatia and Slovenia to be demolished
The Slovenian Foreign Minister informed Schallenberg that the new Slovenian government had started the announced dismantling of the border fence at the Schengen external border with Croatia. First, a responsible working group was set up, she said. “We are committed to protecting the Schengen external border. We will do everything we can to ensure that this border remains secure whether and when we remove the border fence,” Fajon said.

Schallenberg points Slovenian nuclear power plant Krsko. off
While there are also issues between the two neighboring countries that are not shared, the two foreign ministers reaffirmed close and friendly relations and trusting cooperation. As a point of difference, Schallenberg emphasized Austria’s negative attitude towards the Slovenian Krsko nuclear power plant. “I know that giving up nuclear power is not on the Slovenian agenda. But we will address it,” said the minister, referring to efforts to find solutions for the neighbours. “We recognize and are grateful for the well-functioning exchange of experts and that we have been fairly and transparently involved in the environmental impact assessment of the lifespan extension” Schallenberg said, stressing that seismic safety is an important issue that needs to be addressed with regard to the nuclear power plant.

Another topic with different views is the issue of the notification of the legal succession of Yugoslavia by Slovenia in the Austrian State Treaty. Fajon, who favored the notification of the successor in Parliament during her hearing as a candidate for minister, emphasized on Monday that the issue of Slovenia’s status as a contracting party “is not currently addressed in the dialogue with Austria”, although Slovenia would like to be kept informed soon. “The situation in the world has changed so much that this is not possible at the moment,” she said. As she emphasized, Slovenia is continuously engaged in its dialogue with Austria to ensure compliance with Article 7 of the State Treaty, which prescribes the rights of the Slovenian ethnic group. Schallenberg referred to Austria’s well-known position that the state treaty is a closed multilateral treaty in which no follow-up agreements are possible.

Schallenberg: “No fast lane” to the EU
The two ministers also discussed international issues, including the war in Ukraine and EU enlargement in the Western Balkans. Both countries are joining forces in this area. “We are losing ground in the Western Balkans,” warned Schallenberg, stressing that the EU has a geopolitical responsibility towards the neighborhood to which this region belongs. “When we talk about Ukraine at the EU summit, we should also talk about the Western Balkans,” the minister said. He added that it should also be clear that there can be “no fast lane” to the EU. “The geopolitical region for which we are most responsible, as it is surrounded by the EU countries, is the Western Balkans,” emphasized Schallenberg. From Fajon, he gained support for the Austrian push, which envisages gradual integration towards full EU membership.

Schallenberg is the first official foreign guest in Slovenia since the new left-liberal Slovenian government took office on June 1. He also met new Prime Minister Robert Golob and President Borut Pahor on Monday.

Source: Krone

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