According to Karin Keller-Sutter, Belgrade has promised to cancel its visa agreements with Tunisia, Burundi, Cuba and India by the end of the year.
EU interior ministers discussed the large number of refugees and migrants arriving in the EU via the Balkan route. Karin Keller-Sutter was pleased that Belgrade wanted to partially align its visa policy with the Schengen area.
During this meeting in Luxembourg, we actually named the reasons for the situation, that is, “the visa policy of the Serbs is responsible for it,” the Federal Councilor declared after a meeting with his colleagues on Friday.
According to the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP), several states, including Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Belgium, have called on the European Commission to intervene.
While it is true that most refugees entering the Schengen area via the Balkan route come from Syria and Afghanistan, the number of migrants from Turkey, Tunisia, India, Burundi and Cuba has risen sharply since the beginning of the year.
The problem is that people from these countries can travel to Serbia without a visa. Many of them continue to travel to the EU with the help of smugglers. But they have practically no chance of asylum in the Schengen area.
Belgrade wants to give
According to the European border watchdog Frontex, some 106,400 refugees and migrants without valid visas entered the EU via the Balkan route in the first nine months of this year, 170% more than last year.
Across the EU, 228,000 people entered without a valid visa in the first nine months, the highest figure since 2016. Margaritis Schinas, the European Commission’s vice-president in charge of migration, visited several Balkan countries in early October for this reason.
According to Karin Keller-Sutter, Belgrade has now promised to cancel visa agreements with Tunisia, Burundi, Cuba and India by the end of the year. “This is good news”, but we need to check whether Serbia keeps its promise. If so, “that would calm the situation down a lot,” the Swiss minister said.
The number of asylum seekers in Switzerland has also increased, but it is above all a transit country. According to the head of the DFJP, asylum seekers mainly go to countries where migrants are already high. “That’s why, for example, a lot of Afghans go to the UK.” Or they go to places where asylum procedures are slow.
Agreement with Greece
On the sidelines of the ministerial meeting, the Swiss minister also signed a migration agreement with Greek minister Notis Mitarakis as part of the Swiss contribution to EU cohesion. Switzerland’s contribution to Greece is CHF 40 million.
A total of 1.3 billion francs over ten years could help reduce economic and social disparities between Union countries and manage migration. Of this amount, 190 million is earmarked for migration.
So far, Switzerland has signed agreements with eight EU countries in the area of ”economic and social inequalities”. In the field of migration, the agreement with Athens is the first.
Karin Keller-Sutter also used the opportunity to hold bilateral talks. He spoke with European Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, German Interior Minister Nancy Fasser, Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Garner and Lithuanian Interior Minister Ágne Philotide.