Slovenia president urges removal of anti-migrant fence

AFP , Thursday 22 Dec 2016

Slovenia's president called for an anti-migrant barbed-wire fence on the border with Croatia to be dismantled, saying it now serves little purpose, in comments published on his official website Thursday.

"I believe we could remove the wire fence, bearing in mind that no migrant wave, like the one we had last year, is forseeable in the near future," Borut Pahor said.

He said that even "if Turkey opened its borders for migrants, something that can't be predicted for the near future, we would still have enough time to erect the wire fence and other obstacles on the border."

Slovenia put up the fence along some 200 kilometres (120 miles) of its 670-kilometre frontier with Croatia -- an outer border of Europe's passport-free Schengen zone -- at the beginning of this year.

The stated aim was to prevent an uncontrolled inflow of people along the so-called Balkan route used by migrants on their way from Greece to Germany and elsewhere.

But in the end the influx had already all but stopped by the time the barrier was erected, and critics say that it has also hurt tourism and been harmful to wildlife.

Slovenian authorities have nonetheless been reinforcing and replacing the barrier with a more durable panel fence, arguing that illegal migration has been rising and that a new migrants wave could still come.

Pahor also said, in his comments originally made in a radio interview late Wednesday, that the removal would also represent a "sign of improved confidence (by the Slovenian government) in the newly elected Croatian government."

Since the new Croatian centre-right government led by Andrej Plenkovic took office in October, the border fence has been a thorn of contention between the two former Yugoslav states.

Croatia, an EU member not part of Schengen, objected and has sent several diplomatic notes to Ljubljana saying that the fence is on Croatian territory at several points.

During the interview, Pahor also announced he would run for a second mandate at the presidential elections to be held by the end of 2017.

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