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Immigration: Progress following Western Balkans Route Leaders’ Meeting

Last Sunday, upon the initiative of President Juncker, leaders representing Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia met in Brussels at the Commission. They agreed to improve cooperation and step up consultation between the countries along the route and decided on pragmatic operational measures that could be implemented immediately to tackle the refugee crisis in the region.

All 12 leaders – including the President of the Commission – agreed to nominate contact points within 24 hours to allow daily exchanges and coordination to achieve the gradual, controlled and orderly movement of persons along the Western Balkans route and to monitor the implementation of the 17-point plan agreed on Sunday. A day later, all leaders have made good on their commitment and have nominated contact points (see Annex). President Juncker named the Diplomatic Advisor in his Cabinet as the contact point for the Commission. On Thursday 29 October, the Commission will organise a plenary videoconference of all contacts points to check the progress made.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “Last week, we saw countries waving through refugees from one country, to the other. We saw fingers being pointed at each other; and we saw countries talking about but not with each other. This is why I convened a meeting of Heads of State and Government from the affected countries along the Western Balkans migratory route in Brussels. Sunday was a day of unity. For the first time, the leaders of the Western Balkans sat together around a table and discussed the problems they are facing. And they agreed on a series of concrete and operational actions to better manage the situation.

Leaders also committed yesterday to increasing the capacity to provide temporary shelter, rest, food, health, water and sanitation to all in need, triggering the EU Civil Protection Mechanism where necessary. A day later, Croatia has activated the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism for material support such as winter tents, beds, blankets, mattresses and sanitary equipment, to help cope with the large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers in the country.

In addition, the European Commission has today decided to increase the level of co-financing for transport of the assistance delivered via the EU Civil protection Mechanism for the countries needing help in the refugee crisis from 55% to 85%. Serbia, Slovenia and most recently Croatia have activated the mechanism in recent weeks for material support such as tents, blankets, sanitary equipment and other essentials to help refugees this winter.

The Commission also yesterday awarded €5.9 million in emergency assistance to Greece from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) to support the country in coping with the high number of arrivals of migrants and refugees on the Eastern Aegean islands.

The Commission will continue to monitor the implementation of the commitments undertaken on Sunday, as well as those taken at the past two European Councils.

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