The European Union will kick off discussions this week on what consequences recent developments in Afghanistan may have for security and migration in the 27-nation bloc, a spokesman for the Slovenian EU presidency said on Monday (23 August).
Experts will start looking into the possible effects on migration, assistance to key neighbouring countries as well as security-related issues on Tuesday, he told Reuters, followed by a meeting of EU ambassadors on Thursday.
The Slovenian EU presidency aims to convene an extraordinary meeting of home affairs ministers shortly to discuss the situation, Interior Minister Ales Hojs said last week after the Taliban seized Afghanistan’s capital Kabul.
Slovenia currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, meaning the country chairs meetings of ministers from EU states.
Thousands of troops have poured back into the country to oversee the chaotic airlift of foreigners and Afghans from Kabul airport, and pressure is mounting on US President Joe Biden to extend a 31 August deadline for full withdrawal.
Greek migration minister Notis Mitarachi last week warned that NATO member Greece cannot become a gateway into the EU for Afghans fleeing the escalating conflict.
He Mitarachi reiterated calls for a common EU response as unity between EU member states over whether to deport failed Afghan asylum-seekers crumbled the previous week.
Greece was on the front line of Europe’s 2015 migration crisis when nearly a million people fleeing conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan landed on its islands before travelling north to wealthier European countries.
Rumen Radev, the President of Bulgaria, another EU front-line country when it comes to illegal migration, last week called the Consultative Council for State Security to discuss the challenge posed by the situation in Afghanistan.
In written remarks on Sunday, Austria’s conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz reiterated his opposition against taking in any more people fleeing Afghanistan now that the Taliban have seized power.
Austria took in more than one percent of its population in asylum seekers during Europe’s migration crisis in 2015 and 2016, and Kurz has built his career on taking a hard line on immigration, winning every parliamentary election since 2017.
While the European Union grapples with what to do with Afghans who assisted it over the past 20 years, Kurz said coming to Austria was not an option.