By Juš Koren
The Slovenia Government has called on its military on last week to rise to its constitutional duty of protecting the country’s borders. The Parliament has also expanded the authority of the military, giving it the power to patrol the border and to halt and direct people if necessary. The amended Defence Bill received the required two thirds majority, with only United Left party being actively against it.
Since last week, more than 19,000 migrants have arrived in Slovenia. Due to the high influx, the police force has been given logistical assistance from the army before, but now, the army can assist them in the field. Slovene government has asked Europe Union (EU) for financial aid and additional police forces, as it is unsure if Slovenia’s police and military forces can handle it. The EU police forces will also be asked for additional equipment, Prime Minister Miroslav Cerar told the reporters.
The amended defence law will only be amended for up to three months, with a possibility of being extended, but it does give power to the army. The army can now assist the police in patrolling the border, issue orders to civilians near border areas, detain people and hand them over to the police.
In countries that border its southern sea or Turkey, usually at least 9000 people arrive on daily basis, and some say it is the biggest migration in Europe since World War II, when many people were expelled from their homes and forced to seek refuge elsewhere.
The Slovenian government also said that the last few days have been toughest and most demanding since the start of the crisis, and that it was delusional to believe that a small country like Slovenia can handle what other, larger countries could not.
The EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos visited Slovenia on Thursday, meeting with minister Vesna Györkös Žnidar regarding the migrants and refugees. He claims that it is not always easy to take the right decisions in times like these, but that actions have to be taken in a spirit of solidarity and responsibility, commending Slovenia for acting in the spirit of these.
Mr. Avramopoulos also said receiving and registering refugees and migrants, then giving them shelter, and lifting Schengen border controls were right things to do and were still in line with European law.
Assistance and support will be given in two ways: first, the commission is ready to deploy migration management support teams in Slovenia, to help the authorities with the management of the increasing migratory flows. The combined effort of the national authorities and EU agencies can help bring order in the situation very rapidly: by registering, fingerprinting and processing all new arrivals, according to Avramopoulos.
Secondly, existing EU funds can significantly help Slovenia, and its neighbours, to deal with this situation. The European Commission is already offering 56 million euros to Slovenia for 2014-2020 to deal with its migration and security challenges.
Many Slovenians have otherwise volunteered to assist the refugees as well, despite some opposition from right wing parties and individuals.
Juš Koren is a political commentator based in Slovenia.