Slovenian officers get help from Estonia, Lithuania and Poland
Novo Mesto, 10 May - Police officers from Estonia, Lithuania and Poland joined their Slovenian colleagues on Monday to help patrol the border with Croatia and prevent illegal migrations. The 21 officers will be deployed for at least a month and up to six months and are soon to be joined by additional officers from several European countries.
Slovenia signed agreements with these three countries based on an EU Council decision on enhanced cross-border cooperation in an effort to fight terrorism and cross-border crime.
The government cleared the plan in late March after a series of attempts at deploying the army to help the police failed to garner sufficient support in parliament.
As Interior Minister Aleš Hojs put it, the National Assembly's refusal to clear the deployment of soldiers played a major role in the decision to seek help in the EU.
"It might seem at this point that assistance by foreign officers is not needed now that the wave of illegal migrations is smaller, but who can guarantee that 2015 does not happen tomorrow," he said in a reference to the massive wave of migrations six years ago.
Police Commissioner Anton Olaj said the help was welcome since illegal migrations were a great burden on the Slovenian force.
The officers - ten are from Poland, six from Lithuania and five from Estonia - will join Slovenian officers in Bela Krajina region in the south of the country, a popular entry point for migrants.
They will be supervised by Slovenian officers and have a certain scope of police powers, according to Olaj.
Hojs said officers from Hungary and Romania would join them next month. Talks are ongoing with certain other countries, including Denmark, Austria and Germany.
The intensity of illegal border crossings is currently lower than last year, but as the weather improves, the figures are expected to increase.
Hojs said about 150 foreign officers would currently be needed, but the actual scope also depends on money, noting that the deployment of 21 foreign officers cost about 50,000 per month.
According to the minister, Slovenian police had performed admirably in recent years, having apprehended 14,000 illegal migrants last year alone, 14% of all migrants caught illegally entering the EU.