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Central Europe pledges to step up efforts to end illegal immigration at EU borders

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Some 13 of the EU’s 27 member states have reintroduced internal border controls with their neighbors in recent months, a departure from the normal borderless travel enjoyed by Schengen zone countries.

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Interior ministers from six European Union countries said on Monday that their countries had agreed to step up efforts to protect the European Union against illegal immigration and target smuggling groups operating on its borders.

Ministers from the V4 group of central European countries – comprising the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – were joined by their counterparts from Austria and Germany for a summit in the town of Szeged, in southern Hungary, 8 kilometers from the bloc’s border with Serbia.

Some European governments fear that growing pressure from the Balkan migration route, which runs from Serbia to Hungary, will require a tougher response from countries in the region.

Czech Interior Minister Vit Rakusan, who organized the summit, said migration was a “common challenge” for Europe and solutions must focus on preventing migrants entering the bloc illegally. .

“We are all on the same migration route. We share borders and the situation at the EU’s external border affects us all,” he said. He did not give details on how the smugglers would be targeted.

Rakusan said recent decisions by many European governments to reintroduce internal border controls in the visa-free Schengen zone were unsustainable and that the protection of external borders would be the focus of future cooperation between the six governments.

“We all want to keep the Schengen area alive,” he said. “We all know that internal border controls are not the right solution.”

He also indicated that the countries participating in the conference would create a working group to try to find common solutions, which “will not be easy.”

Increase in violence

Some 13 of the EU’s 27 member states have reintroduced internal border controls with their neighbors in recent months, a departure from the normal borderless travel enjoyed by Schengen zone countries.

Slovakia last month resumed controls on its border with Hungary in a bid to reduce the growing number of migrants entering the country, after neighboring Austria, the Czech Republic and Poland introduced checks on their own. borders with Slovakia.

This change is partly explained by the increase in violence in northern Serbia in recent months. Armed clashes have become commonplace along the border with Hungary, where migrants have gathered looking for ways to enter the EU with the help of smugglers.

Hundreds of Serbian officers were sent to the area near the border in late October. They arrested several people after a shooting between migrants left three people dead and one injured.

At Monday’s summit, German Minister Nancy Faeser stressed that “they want open borders within the Union” and claimed that it is these migratory movements that have led to controls with their neighbors.

Faeser spoke about the importance of respecting human rights when discussing the defense of the EU’s external borders and internal controls.

Hungarian Interior Minister Sandor Pinter said he and his counterparts would discuss a common European immigration and asylum policy at a meeting in Brussels next week.

He said his country was unwilling to compromise on a proposal to distribute asylum seekers across the EU to ease the burden on countries worst hit by migration.

“Hungary cannot accept the obligatory nature of relocation,” Pinter said. “It’s a question of sovereignty for Hungary.”

Ministers were then due to visit the electrified Hungarian border fence, erected by the nationalist government in 2015 after more than a million migrants entered the EU after fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.



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