On border security during the Salzburg Forum
The Salzburg Forum Ministerial Conference ended with the signing of a joint declaration. The most important issues related to EU internal security, securing the EU’s external borders and proposals for responding to persistent migration pressure were discussed, and Poland’s six-month presidency of the SF was summed up.
The Ministerial Conference of the Salzburg Forum and Group of Friends of the SF took place on 15-16 November in Warsaw under the chairmanship of Mariusz Błaszczak, Minister of the Interior and Administration.
During the conference, the Minister emphasized that one of the priorities should be to maintain the proper functioning of the Schengen Area so that the member states need not apply the mechanism of restoring controls at the external borders. ‘To minimize the use of this mechanism, member states should first of all ensure adequate protection at the external border. In my opinion, maintaining this mechanism is justified only in exceptional circumstances’, said Minister Mariusz Błaszczak, citing the example of Poland, which used the mechanism last year when the NATO Summit was organized in Warsaw and World Youth Day in Krakow.
Minister Błaszczak also positively assessed the year of operation of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX) with an extended mandate. ‘Its establishment is a significant step towards strengthening protection of the EU's external borders,’ the minister said.
Poland supports activities at the external border, including at the operational level. According to the head of the Ministry of Interior and Administration, we should strive to develop operational cooperation skills, which are among the most important tools for supporting member states in responding to threats at the EU's external borders.
Recent events also confirm that an effective response to the challenges of illegal migration facing member states, in addition to ensuring external border security, requires cooperation with key countries of origin and transit. ‘This cooperation can effectively reduce illegal immigration along the most important routes’, the Minister stressed. The head of the Ministry of Interior and Administration also reminded the participants that migration pressure, while much smaller than two years ago or a year ago, is still strong, and that everything should be done to reduce it. ‘We must abandon the automatic relocation mechanism. This is a factor attracting further waves of illegal immigrants’, he added.
During the debate, a proposal was put forth by the representative from Austria to create a database of illegal migrants, which would help to more effectively counteract their entry into the European Union. ‘This is a very interesting proposal that would facilitate the work of border security services’, said Minister Błaszczak, pointing out the need to consider undertaking expert research aimed at establishing a database of illegal immigrants.
About the Salzburg Forum
The Salzburg Forum is one of the most important informal international initiatives for Poland in the area of internal affairs. The Salzburg Forum member states are Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Slovenia. Key areas for partnership include police cooperation, border control cooperation, combating illegal migration, migration policy, and exchanges of views on EU issues.
A common external strategy was adopted in 2006, and in 2007 the SF member states formed the ‘Group of Friends’, consisting of the Western Balkan countries (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania) and Moldova. Salzburg Forum Ministerial Conferences are organized semi-annually by successive Salzburg Forum member states holding sixth-month presidencies. Poland took over the presidency of the SF in the second half of 2017. From January 2018 the presidency will be held by Romania.