Prime Minister Cerar: EU Summit gives a clear message that Balkan route is gone

Prime Minister Miro Cerar stressed after the EU summit on Tuesday that the Balkan migration route no longer existed, even though the summit conclusions were reworded to no longer specifically mention the closure of the Balkan route. “The part about the closure of the Balkan route remains in the statement … Substantively this is the same,” Cerar told reporters. The statement says that “irregular flows of migrants along the Western Balkans route have now come to an end.” A sentence that said the route was closed was eventually omitted.

This sends “a very clear message to all traffickers and all irregular migrants that this route no longer exists, it is closed,” according to Cerar. Today or tomorrow Slovenia will start to fully implement Schengen rules and allow passage only to those with the requisite documents, he said. All asylum applicants will be put through the regular procedure. As for the EU’s cooperation with Turkey, Cerar said the deal would be finalised in follow-up consultations and confirmed at the next summit in ten days.

He believes “very specific steps” could be made next week in EU-Turkey cooperation, even though it initially appeared as if a deal would not be reached. The tentative deal includes Turkey’s measures to stop unlawful migrations in return for a continuation of visa liberalisation and additional funding for refugees. The talks also revolve around a revival of accession talks with the opening of new negotiating chapters, and the definition of humanitarian safe zones in Turkey, according to Cerar.

Asked why ten more days was needed to finalise the deal, the prime minister said Turkey’s offer had only come a day earlier. Since it is very specific member states need a few extra days for analysis and deliberation. “This is to prevent having commitments, statements that would be too lax or insufficiently binding,” he said, noting that in a few days “these things will be cleared up.”