Hahn: Western Balkans no parking lot for refugees

Johannes Hahn; Photo: Tanjug

BRUSSELS – EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn warned the EU member states on Thursday against shifting the responsibility for receiving refugees to Western Balkan countries.

The Western Balkans countries are not a source of our problem with migrants, but transit enclaves within the EU, Hahn told a press conference in Brussels.

“To get there, a refugee has to walk through at least one member state,” Hahn noted.

The political and social situation in the Western Balkans is still fragile and the EU’s obligation is to help, rather than place an additional burden on Serbia, Macedonia and other countries on the migrants’ Balkan route, Hahn warned.

“The Western Balkans must not become a parking lot or ‘no man’s land’ for stranded refugees,” he said, adding that “cool heads on all sides are needed now. What we do not need is harsh rhetoric.”

Asked whether under the readmission agreement Hungary has the legal right to return migrants to Serbia, Hahn said that he cannot answer as a jurist, but as a politician.

Our obligation is to help, rather than shift our problems to them, the European commissioner stressed.

Since 2007, the EU has allocated EUR 54 million in aid to Serbia to deal with migration and asylum issues, he said, adding that the sum also includes planned projects.

Hahn urged member states that have not met their obligations towards EU funds to do so as soon as possible and invest additional money, adding that the crisis is an unprecedented and acute one.