Juncker welcomes PM Cerar’s call for Macedonian border protection

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker welcomed in a letter on Monday Prime Minister Miro Cerar’s initiative for additional assistance to Macedonia in strengthening controls at its border with Greece. Cerar proposed to Juncker and other EU leaders on Monday that the bloc should offer help with controlling the Greek-Macedonian border to help stop illegal migrants who managed to get into Greece.

Juncker said that Slovenia’s experience with such international cooperation, which was organised on a bilateral level, “could be of particular benefit to build on the first steps taken and ensure swift and effective deployment in…Macedonia”.

He noted that the current rules did not allow for the “deployment of officers in the framework of a FRONTEX joint operation on the territory of a third country”.

This “shortcoming” is being addressed by the Commission, which has proposed the establishing of the European Border and Coast Guard, he added.

Juncker also responded to Cerar’s call for common criteria to determine eligibility of refugees to enter the EU. Referring to an agreement made at the EU-Western Balkan summit in October 2015, he said a “country may refuse entry to third country nationals who…do not confirm a wish to apply for international protection”.

According to him, member states should “indeed refuse entry at the external border to third-country nationals who do not satisfy the entry conditions”.

This applies for Macedonia and other non-EU countries on the Western Balkans route, he said.

He stressed that the countries along the route had agreed “to discourage the movement of refugees or migrants to the border of another country of the region”.

“A policy of waving through refugees without informing a neighbouring country is not acceptable,” the Commission president said.

He added that progress could only be made with full commitment of all actors – EU member states, third countries and the EU institutions and agencies.