Hungary is ready to build a fence on its border with Romania “the next day” if migrants switch to that route instead of going via Croatia, Hungarian Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Szijjarto warned, as quoted by news agency Reuters.
“If we have to build a fence there, we are ready from the next day,” he said.
Austria said on Friday it would deny entry to migrants intending to pass through to Germany rather than apply for asylum there, prompting Slovenia to its south to announce a similar move, to avoid becoming a refugee bottleneck.
This could turn Romania into a popular route later this year. From Romania, migrants would be likely to try to enter Hungary en route for Western Europe.
“It is more likely than ever that the southern border of the Schengen zone will be equal to the northern border of Greece (with Bulgaria and Macedonia),” Szijjarto said.
Peter Szijjarto also told Reuters the southern frontiers of Europe were still wide open to the continuing influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Africa, which has put in doubt the future of the Schengen system of open internal borders within the EU.
He said it would require tens of thousands of police and troops in a joint European force to stem the flow of migrants at Greece’s long maritime borders. “If Greece is not willing to take part in this solution … we need the Bulgarians and Macedonians to talk to”, he also said.
His declaration follows Austrian Foreign Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner’s announcement on Friday that Austria would forbid the entrance on its territory for migrants who are more likely to transit to Germany instead of seeking asylum there. Therefore, Slovenia also adopted a similar measure to avoid blocking immigrants on its territory.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka expressed a similar view on Tuesday, saying the EU needed a “back-up” border control system ready in case migration could not be controlled in Turkey or Greece.
The barriers initially drew criticism from European Union partners, but other countries, such as Slovenia and Austria, have since erected fences of their own. So the Schengen system has already been suspended on some EU frontiers. Few migrants have passed through the Czech Republic so far, but that could change if Germany, the desired destination for most, sealed its borders.
“We need to strengthen the outer Schengen border, to create a common European border patrol,” Sobotka told reporters.
“And if nothing of this works, then we have to create a back-up border system on the Bulgaria-Macedonia line.”
At the time being, refugees who arrive in Greece by boat continue their journey by successively transiting Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria, and afterwards head to states in Western Europe, especially Germany.