Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, Austrian interior ministers discuss illegal migration

The interior ministers of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Austria met in Prague on Thursday to discuss the problems caused by illegal migration into the Schengen Area, a visa-free zone comprising most of the Europe Union (EU) countries.

According to the Czech Ministry of the Interior, the most popular route to cross the EU’s borders is currently the Western Balkan route that goes through non-EU countries.

Discussions will continue Friday at a larger scale, with EU interior ministers heading to Brussels for an extraordinary meeting of the Council of the EU.

“We want to solve migration as a common European problem,” Czech Minister of the Interior Vit Rakusan, who will lead the meeting on Friday, said in a statement.

The Czech Republic currently hold the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.

Discussions will cover all migration routes, with special focus on the problematic Western Balkans route, Rakusan said.

One of the proposals on the table is to coordinate visa policies with non-EU countries. An agreement of this kind has been reached between Serbia and the EU, the minister said.

Meanwhile, the Czech Republic unilaterally introduced controls on its border with Slovakia at the end of September to stem illegal entries. This move, which is expected to stay in place until Dec. 12, has strained relations between the two countries.

The Czech News Agency (CTK) has quoted Rakusan as saying that he would propose an extension of the border checks, probably by 30 days. However, there will be special arrangements during the Christmas holidays so that the checks “do not complicate the meeting of families.”

Rakusan said the controls were extraordinary and temporary.

“We will lift them when the migration pressure from the Western Balkans subsides,” the minister was quoted as saying.

Czech police have detained more than 21,000 people this year who crossed the EU’s border without a valid visa. This is six times more than the number registered during the migration crisis in 2015, according to the CTK.

 

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