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Press Release

12.04.17

Despite the temporary derogation from systematic checks, delays will be unavoidable during the holiday period.

State Secretary Boštjan Šefic has given a statement to the press in which he presented the conclusions of the meeting of the Borders Working Group that took place in Brussels on 12 April 2017 and the measures that Slovenia will implement with regard to systematic checks at external Schengen borders during the forthcoming holidays.


"Slovenia is a member of the Schengen area and we cover the border between Slovenia and Croatia, which is one of the busiest Schengen borders." Slovenia has an extremely important role and is a defender of the Schengen area. We have always been diligent in the task of defending our border and will continue to perform this task seriously and responsibly in the future.


The provisions of the Regulation introducing systematic checks at external Schengen borders entered into force on 7 April. Under these provisions, checks are carried out at the border for nationals of third countries and EU citizens. In practice this means that travellers are subjected to systematic checks of their identity and citizenship and of the authenticity and validity of their international travel documents in multiple databases: the Schengen Information System (SIS), the Interpol database on stolen and lost travel documents, and national databases containing information on stolen, misappropriated, lost and invalidated travel documents.


The State Secretary said that Slovenia had already drawn attention, during the drafting of the Regulation, to the disproportionate nature of this measure, which will lead in practice to long queues. We believe that checking all travellers without logical exceptions is not a measure that is proportionate to the aims of the Regulation. Slovenia therefore called for a wider range of exemptions from systematic checks (e.g. children up to 12 years old and minors travelling with their parents, students on organised trips, elderly people travelling in organised group, holders of border traffic permits). Unfortunately our proposal did not receive sufficient support.


"It has turned out that we were right, and implementation of the new provision of the Regulation has caused considerable difficulties in practice, including delays at our border crossings and dissatisfaction among travellers." We should point out that we were already expecting increased traffic, since Easter holidays have already begun in some countries. As a transit country, Slovenia would in any case be experiencing above-average traffic in this period. Waiting times to cross the border are on average four to five times longer, while the scope of checks has increased tenfold compared to last year. "Once again I would like to emphasise that Slovenia has not abandoned systematic border checks, as reported by some media; but last weekend we adopted and, as necessary, implemented measures to reduce waiting times at border crossings. Such measures are envisaged and permitted by the Schengen Borders Code."


Over the past few days we have had numerous discussions with representatives of the Republic of Croatia, at both the political and operational levels, since – as our Croatian counterparts have informed us – Croatia has experienced major difficulties, above all with the information system, the level of technical equipment and the number of police officers at the border. We have sent the European Commission an exhaustive report on incidents at the border during the past weekend. Today a working meeting of representatives of the Borders Working Group took place in Brussels for the purpose of comparing experiences and clarifying the open questions that have appeared in the first days of implementation of the Regulation.


The European Commission wishes to explain individual provisions and clarify specific doubts regarding their interpretation, which has led to different practices in different Member States. This applies in particular to the notification and risk assessment procedure in cases where a Member State opts for so-called targeted checks. The European Commission also wishes to obtain feedback on events on the ground since the entry into force of the Regulation.


Some Member States (Hungary, Italy, Bulgaria, Finland, Greece, Croatia) have already sent notification and explained the key reasons that have led them to suspend systematic checks. The representatives of Slovenia and Croatia presented the situation regarding waiting times and the problems these have caused. Some Member States, e.g. Portugal, are still analysing the overall situation and will decide on any further measures at a later date.


The European Commission concluded with the assessment that there have been some initial difficulties with the implementation of the Regulation, which it will now attempt to eliminate. A revision of the Schengen Practical Handbook, which will include guidelines for implementing the provisions of the Regulation, has been promised.


At the meeting Slovenia highlighted the need to formulate uniform criteria for a derogation from systematic checks and to establish common practice for risk assessments. Member States must prepare risk assessments for every border crossing at which they wish to apply so-called targeted implementation of border checks. We also repeated the reservations to which we drew attention during drafting of the Regulation.

 
In view of the fact that the Easter holidays are upon us, which in itself means increased traffic at border crossings, we will apply the exemption under Article 8 of the Regulation, i.e. temporary derogation from systematic checks, on the basis of the risk assessment that we are preparing for each border crossing separately. This means that at certain border crossings, on the basis of the risk assessment, in critical periods we will only check those travellers for whom checks are necessary with regard to security and operational indicators. These indicators will be included in the risk assessment and in the case of travellers with identified risk indicators, police officers will still be required to carry out systematic border checks. "In this way we want to ensure that all persons travelling in good faith are able to complete border formalities in the briefest time possible." The police will continue to implement systematic checks of all passengers in intervals when traffic is light.


In conclusion, State Secretary Šefic underlined the fact that Slovenia meets its obligations consistently, as a responsible member of the EU and the Schengen area, and will continue to do so in the future, "since we are aware that the security not only of Slovenian citizens but of the whole of the European Union depends on our work. At the same time, however, we will work hard to ensure that this does not have an excessive impact on the life of people living by the border, or on travellers."



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