Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar on Monday pushed for closing the western Balkan refugee route to central Europe for illegal migrants.
"Closing the Balkan route for illegal migrants who want to reach central Europe is absolutely necessary" because it is a condition to preserve the Schengen Area, he told reporters in Brussels ahead of an EU summit on the migrant crisis.
If European Union leaders decide on such a closure, Slovenia would be willing to remove the barbed wire fence which it put up on parts of its border with Croatia last autumn to prevent a mass entry of migrants and refugees, Cerar said.
"Schengen should be preserved but illegal migrations should be stopped," he said, adding that his government adopted a decision last month on a strict application of Schengen rules towards migrants but suspended it pending a joint European solution.
Cerar said Slovenia's initiative to filter migrants on the Greek-Macedonian border was working, unlike other initiatives to deal with the migrant crisis.
He said the states on the Balkan route had united in the position that the illegal flow of migrants to central Europe should be stopped. "Intensive cooperation is necessary now. It's necessary to help Macedonia, but Greece too," he said, adding that he expected the states which had so far objected to stopping the illegal migrant flow, primarily Germany, to now agree to it.
The Balkan migrant route should be closed but it would still be possible to let through refugees who deserve asylum, those with "justified grounds" for it, Cerar said.
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