EU states want visas reintroduced for Balkan countries
BRUSSELS - Agence France-Presse
EPA PhotoGermany and five other EU states want the European Commission to allow the reintroduction of visas for people coming from the Balkans so as to curb soaring asylum requests, the European Commission said Monday.
Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands wrote to the Commission after a sharp increase in those asking for asylum, clogging up the system in what is "clearly a worrying situation," a spokesman for EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said.
"Many member states face a considerable influx of people from the (West) Balkans area," where several countries including Serbia were given visa free status in 2010 under the EU's Schengen freedom of movement provisions.
The vast majority of asylum requests being submitted were "unfounded" but each one had to be gone through, taking up time and effort that was better spent on genuine cases, rather than on economic migrants, he added.
The Commission and the European Parliament are currently negotiating a safeguard clause which could allow a member state to seek a temporary suspension of the visa free arrangements but it has not been adopted yet.
Germany and the five other countries had written to the Commission asking for work on this safeguard clause to be speeded up, the spokesman said.
On Friday, German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said "the huge influx of people coming from Serbia and Macedonia has to be stopped immediately." Serb applications for asylum in Germany jumped to 1,395 in September from 496 in July, while those from Macedonia more than quadrupled at 1,040, up from 215, he said.
Germany faced "growing abuse of the right of asylum (which) ... is not acceptable," Freidrich added.
Malmstroem stressed last month that "asylum seekers are people fleeing persecution, fearing for their security and even for their life in their countries of origin.
"We have the responsibility to welcome them in a dignified manner."