Yesterday, a fourteenth video conference was held between the contact points nominated after the Western Balkans Route Leaders' Meeting held on 25 October. The objective was to follow up on the agreement reached at the meeting and set out in the Leaders' Statement. Senior officials from the countries and agencies present at the meeting had a detailed discussion on recent trends concerning external borders and reception capacity:
Leaders' Statement Point 13 on border management
A broad discussion on the different border management points allowed for an exchange of information between the countries and organisations during the call, including the following key points:
Frontex reported on progress made concerning negotiations with Greece to further increase Frontex support at the Greek border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The Commission provided an update on efforts to support the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as regards the management of the border.
The Commission informed about the outcome of a second video conference held between the national police authorities from all participating countries. During this video conference the national police authorities took stock of the situation on the ground and identified the concrete consequences of changes in border management policy for the participating countries.
The Dutch Presidency informed about the outcome of a political level meeting which took place in the margins of the Informal Justice and Home Affairs Council on 25 January between Austria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Serbia, and Slovenia. A political level meeting with representatives of all participating countries, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan is foreseen at the occasion of the next Justice and Home Affairs Council on 25 February.
The Dutch Presidency also informed about a political level meeting with Turkey held in the margins of the Informal Justice and Home Affairs Council on 25 January in Amsterdam, where participants discussed progress made as regards the implementation of the EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan. Furthermore, the Commission briefed participants on the outcome of the High Level Political Dialogue between Turkey and the EU in Ankara on 25 January.
Leaders' Statement Points 5 and 6 relating to support and shelter to refugees
The UNHCR provided an update on progress towards the delivery of the 20,000 reception places which will be provided in private accommodation via a voucher scheme with partners in Greece. This is part of the total of 50,000 additional reception places which Greece committed to provide at the Leaders Meeting of 25 October. The UNHCR is making good progress towards the target. The number of places offered by UNHCR through its partners so far stands at an estimated number of 14,520. The UNHCR and Greece also gave an update on ongoing works to increase reception capacity in the Greek islands.
The group will reconvene again for the next weekly video conference on 3 February, and will continue their bilateral contacts in the meantime to ensure full communication, coordination and cooperation to address the migration flows and to ensure humane treatment of those seeking asylum in Europe.
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.
On 15 December, the European Commission published a Progress Report on measures taken to tackle the refugee and migration crisis along the Western Balkans Route. The Report assessed progress on the measures in the Leaders Statement adopted after the Western Balkans Route Leaders Meeting on the 25 October.
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