On 29 October, a first video conference was held between the contact points (see Annex) nominated after the Western Balkans Route Leaders' Meeting. The objective was to follow up on the agreement reached in the early hours of Monday morning and set out in the Leaders' Statement. Senior officials from the countries and agencies present at the meeting provided updates on actions taken in the three days since the Leaders' Meeting:
-The Greek Government reported on their planning for the delivery of 50,000 reception places in Greece before the end of the year, including 20,000 through host family and rent subsidy arrangements in cooperation with the UNHCR (Leaders' Statement Point 5).
-Other countries notified the reception capacities they can immediately put in place in view of reaching the additional 50,000 reception places along the Western Balkans route by the end of the year (Leaders' Statement Point 6):
-Austria committed 5,000
-Serbia committed 3,000
-Croatia committed 2,000
-Slovenia committed 2,000
This brings the total places pledged to 12,000 so far.
-Slovenia updated the group on the deployment of 400 police officers in Slovenia (Leaders' Statement Point 13). So far, countries have pledged a total of 183 officers, with 13 already deployed in the country and 30 on their way.
-Contact points agreed on a methodology for daily coordination of information flows, with the Commission and Frontex to centralise the data submitted by the contact points in a table which will cover in particular the size of the flows, points of entry and expected points of exit (Leaders' Statement Point 1). This information will be exchanged as of tomorrow morning.
-Frontex informed the group that it has today sent letters to the national Frontex points of contact in Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary and Croatia, and to the Interior Ministers of Croatia and Greece to follow up on the commitment to upscale Operation Poseidon and to reinforce Frontex support at the Bulgarian-Turkish border, at the Croatian-Serbian border and to support registration in Greece at its external land borders (Leaders' Statement Point 13). The letters outline how Frontex envisages to provide that support and now require feedback and agreement from the national authorities.
-Contact points agreed to submit their needs assessments as soon as possible, so that the Commission is able to compile the information for the 4 November (Leaders' Statement Point 1).
-The Commission informed the group that yesterday it held a video conference call with international financial institutions (European Investment Bank, Council of Europe Development Bank, World Bank, International Monetary Fund) to explore how they can support the expansion of reception facilities along the Western Balkans Route (Leaders' Statement Point 7). The meeting identified the Council of Europe Development Bank as the best placed to contribute, since it is able to operate both within and outside the European Union, is able to offer grants rather than loans and has a dedicated migrant and refugee fund. The Commission will now start organising joint missions with the Council of Europe Development Bank to the relevant countries to operationalise this support. The Commission will continue work with the other institutions on medium and long term financial support.
In addition, the Commission as of today and in view of the urgency of the situation, has moved up its internal coordination mechanism (ARGUS - General Rapid Alert System) - which allows for a rapid and coordinated Commission response with accelerated decision-making processes - in place since weeks, to the next phase. This means that meetings involving all relevant actors across the Commission will now take place on a daily basis, including over the weekends and public holidays.
The group also discussed communication activities to ensure that asylum seekers are provided with sufficient information on the processes in place, the facilities made available to them, the rules on registration and identification, and the opportunities available to them under the EU relocation scheme. The clear intention with this approach is to encourage asylum seekers not to travel irregularly across Europe, putting themselves in physical harm and exposing themselves to unscrupulous people smugglers.
The group will reconvene for weekly video conferences, and will continue their bilateral contacts in the meantime to ensure full communication, coordination and cooperation to address the migration flows and ensure humane treatment of those seeking asylum in Europe. The next video conference will take place on Wednesday 4 November.
On Wednesday 21 October, European Commission President Juncker called for a Leaders' Meeting on refugee flows along the Western Balkans route to address the emergency situation unfolding along this route.
At the meeting, all 12 leaders - including the President of the Commission - agreed to nominate contact points within 24 hours to allow daily exchanges and coordination to achieve the gradual, controlled and orderly movement of persons along the Western Balkans route and to monitor the implementation of the 17-point plan agreed on 21 October.
Attending the Leaders' Meeting were the Heads of State or Government of Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. The President of the European Parliament and the President of the European Council, the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the EU, the future Dutch Presidency of the Council of the EU and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees were in attendance. The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (Frontex) were also represented.
For more information
Annex: National Contact Points - Western Balkans Route
Country / Organisation
Mr. Richard SZOSTAK
Diplomatic Adviser, Cabinet of the President
PRESIDENCY OF THE COUNCIL
M.r Pascal SCHUMACHER
Adviser, Permanent Representation of Luxembourg to the EU
Mr. Hugo BRADY
Adviser, Cabinet of the President
Mr. Sander LLESHI
Adviser for security in the Cabinet of Prime Minister
Mr. Raphael STERNFELD
International Affairs Adviser, Federal Chancellery
Ms. Petya PARVANOVA
Adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior
Mr. Uwe CORSEPIUS
European Policy Adviser, Federal Chancellery
Former YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA
Ms. Anastasija ILIESKA
State Secretary, Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Macedonia
Ms. Eleni TAKOU
Chief policy Adviser of the Minister of Migration
Ms. Maja BOGDAN
Deputy Sherpa, Government of the Republic of Croatia
Mr. Tibor LAKATOS
Police Colonel, Head of the Operation Centre of the Ministry of Interior
Mr. Leonard ORBAN
EU Affairs Sherpa of the President
Mr. Aleksandar VULIN
Minister of Social Affairs, Government coordinator for Migration Issues
Mr. Igor MALLY
EU Affairs Sherpa, Government of the Republic of Slovenia
Ms. Sophie MAGENNIS
Head of Policy and Support Unit
Mr. David REISENZEIN
Mr. Mark CAMILLERI
Adviser to the Executive Director