Slovenian Home Secretary Boštjan Poklukar and Chief of Police Senad Jušić visited the border crossing points Obrežje and Rigonce - photo credits @ Twitter/ vladaRS

Slovenia and Italy become latest countries to introduce temporary internal EU border controls

In response to the evolving international security landscape, the governments of Slovenia and Italy have announced the temporary reintroduction of border controls at their respective internal borders. These decisions bring the number of controlled borders within the Schengen area to 12.

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The decisions by Italy and Slovenia, like those of the other countries that have introduced controls at some of their borders, have come amid growing concerns about security and the need to protect their citizens in the face of rising global tensions and the threat of terrorism.

Slovenia’s border controls

The Government of the Republic of Slovenia has issued a decree to reinstate border controls at the internal borders with Croatia and Hungary, effective from Saturday, October 21, 2023.

These controls are set to remain in place until October 30, 2023.

The primary aim of these measures is to ensure the safety and security of its citizens during a time of heightened threat.

Minister of the Interior Boštjan Poklukar, while addressing the decision, emphasized that the controls would be implemented while striving to maintain smooth border crossings for Slovenian citizens, minimizing long queues, and without significantly impacting the lives of those residing near the borders.

The decision to reintroduce controls is a response to a worrying situation in neighbouring regions, including the ongoing Russian military aggression against Ukraine and worsening circumstances in the Middle East.

Recent terrorist attacks in some European member states have further amplified security concerns.

The control measures are enacted in accordance with Article 28 of the Schengen Code and are considered a short-term response to the increased threat of terrorism. The government has notified relevant European institutions, including the European Commission, the European Parliament, the General Secretariat of the Council, and member states.

The neighbouring countries, Croatia and Hungary, have also been informed of this measure.

Italian border controls

Italy has concurrently reinstated border controls at its shared border with Slovenia, also effective from October 21, 2023.

The decision is part of Italy’s broader strategy to enhance domestic security against the backdrop of heightened terrorism threats in Europe. The Italian government cited the intensification of crisis hotspots on Europe’s borders and the recent attack on Israel as factors contributing to an increased threat level of violent actions within the European Union.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni acknowledged the necessity of suspending the Schengen Treaty on free movement to ensure security and took full responsibility for this decision. The government informed European Union authorities and engaged in discussions with Slovenian counterparts regarding the move.

Italy expressed concerns that existing police measures at the Italian-Slovenian border were insufficient to guarantee the required security, particularly in light of potential risks associated with illegal migration flows.

The border controls will initially be in place for ten days, with the possibility of an extension, in accordance with Schengen rules.

Growing number of border controls within the Schengen zone

The number of countries introducing controls at some of their borders within the EU has increased in recent weeks.

Here is a brief summary of the latest introductions of border controls within the EU:

26 September – Germany, under increasing pressure to deal with a growing number of asylum seekers, introduced temporary border controls with Poland and the Czech Republic from 26 September.

Later in October, Germany announced a further series of temporary internal border controls at its land borders with Switzerland and Austria to combat smuggling crime and address issues related to irregular migration.

16 October – The Danish government announced the reintroduction of border controls with Germany for a new temporary period of six months. In April 2023, the Danish government revised its border strategy with Germany, prioritising law enforcement activities in border areas over entry controls. This model will continue with the reintroduction of border controls for the next 6 months.

5 October – The Czech Republic and Poland announced a joint effort to introduce border controls along their shared border with Slovakia, and Austria followed suit and introduced similar controls on its border with Slovakia. These measures were expected to last at least 10 days.

In response to the controls in neighbouring countries, Slovakia also announced that it had reintroduced controls on its border with Hungary from 5 October to 14 October.

Since then, all these countries (Poland, Czech Republic, Austria and Slovakia) have extended their controls until early November.