As if Adrian Burtin entitling 2024 “the year of migration” in one of his latest press reviews was not convincing enough, a European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) report authored by Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies Ivan Krastev and ECFR director Mark Leonard forecasts that the migration crisis is one of the main factors influencing how people will vote at the upcoming European elections.
This forecast puts a lot of pressure on the southeastern part of Europe because it’s a preferred route for many asylum seekers and migrant workers. Some European countries see this region as a sieve of migrants. To explain, before Austria agreed to let Romania and Bulgaria join Schengen with air and sea borders, Francois Murphy reported for the news agency Reuters that Austria’s Interior Minister Gerhard Karner had conditioned “a trebling of the number of border police and upgrades to the technical equipment deployed, particularly at Bulgaria’s border with Turkey and Romania’s border with Serbia.”
Another country using Balkan territory to manage its migrant influx is Italy. Expressing her opinion for the online magazine Kosovo 2.0, Albanian scholar Kristina Millona observed that “increasingly, western countries resort to border externalization to prevent people on the move from reaching their legal jurisdictions.” As proof, Millona references the deal made between Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Albania’s PM Edi Rama. The deal should let Italy accommodate migrants in Albania while the Italians process the migrants’ claims. As the Albanian newspaper Tirana Times reported, Albania could host 36,000 asylum seekers per year starting as soon as the spring of 2024 arrives.
Come hell or high water
Most migrants taking the Balkan route are determined to find a better place for themselves, no matter the difficulties lying ahead. Migration through Southeastern Europe involves not only the possibility of remaining stuck in detention camps but also facing unwelcoming authorities. Firstly, the same Millona of Kosovo 2.0 warns that “transferring and detaining asylum-seekers through safe-third country agreements is a concerning practice that risks trapping individuals placed in detention camps in limbo, without permanent legal status and unable to return home.”
Receive the best of European journalism straight to your inbox every Thursday
Second, a reportage signed by Stavros Malichoudis for the Greek investigative platform Solomon shows that the Hellenic authorities acted wrongfully with a total of 55,445 migrants between March 2020 and March 2023. Some of the documented allegations involve the Greek Coast Guard towing migrants, many of whom sailing to Italy, back to Turkish waters, or abandoning them in floating rafts. The European Parliament itself expressed “severe concerns regarding the serious and persistent allegations made against Greek authorities in relation to pushbacks and violence against migrants.”
In need of foreign labour
While many migrants aim for better-developed countries like Italy, Germany or France, they have a place in the Balkans, where businesses face labour shortages. In a feature for Kosovo 2.0, journalist Rexhep Maloku quoted the head of Kosovo’s Independent Trade Union of the Private Sector, Juzuf Asemi, who pointed out that the need of minorities in the labor market “will only increase and is very normal.”
The same manpower shortage exists in Romania. Alex Vlaicu from the Romanian newspaper Adevărul quoted highway project manager Adrian Bodoc: “Unfortunately, the labor force in Romania is still a problem. We employ both skilled and unskilled forces. We have also turned to extreme solutions, bring (editor’s note: workers) from other countries and prepare accommodation.”
Meanwhile, Malta plans to raise the skill level of the migrants entering their country. In March, as Jessica Arena reported for the newspaper Times of Malta, the Mediterranean archipelago will require skills cards for foreigners seeking jobs in the tourism industry.
On the same topic
LG | Jutarnji List | 18 January | HR
Croatian daily newspaper Jutarnji List reported on the TV appearance of security expert Pavle Kalinić, who showed his support for mandatory military training in Croatia. Comparing his country with Switzerland’s successful model, Kalinić emphasised the need for a robust defence, citing the vulnerability of nations like Ukraine. The security expert says the already proposed one-month training “is not enough,” advocating instead for a three to four-month program for both men and women.
Natalia Zaharescu | Ziarul de Gardă | 29 December | RO
Moldovan investigative newspaper Ziarul de Gardă analysed the file of Dorin Drăguțanu, the former Governor of the National Bank of Moldova (NBM), who allegedly facilitated a large-scale banking fraud in collaboration with a criminal organisation led by Vladimir Plahotniuc, and also involving Ilan Șor. The prosecutors argue that Drăguțanu, along with other NBM officials, allowed the criminal group to misuse public funds and shift the financial burden onto the national budget.