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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Stopping the Flow: Berlin searching a for Back-Up Plan in Refugee Crisis.

Stopping the Flow: Berlin searching a for Back-Up Plan in Refugee Crisis. (Spiegel).

Sometimes, the greatest changes are announced very quietly. Each Thursday, representatives of the countries located along the refugee route that crosses the Balkans meet by video conference for a briefing on the current situation. Are there sufficient accommodations in Greece? Are there enough heated tents in Croatia. There are numerous organizational and administrative questions, and the whole affair has an almost routine feel to it.

Participating in the group on Germany's behalf is Uwe Corsepius, Chancellor Angela Merkel's European policy advisor. Last Thursday, he and his colleagues from Austria and Slovenia informed the others first talks were being conducted about, among other things, finding ways to better control Slovenia's borders.

That may not sound like much, but was nothing less than an announcement that Germany was making a strategic shift in its refugee policies. Merkel has been insistent that a European solution needs to be found for the crisis. But asked what this "European solution" might look like, officials are giving a different answer these days than they used to.

Previously, the official German position had been that refugees should be stopped at the European Union's external borders in Greece and Italy. The plan had been to open up large initial reception centers, so-called hotspots, where refugees would be registered and a decision made on their possible redistribution to other European countries. Merkel says she is still pursuing this plan.

The problem is that the opening of the hotspots is moving ahead extremely slowly. Greece in particular, the country through which most refugees are currently traveling to the European Union, isn't adhering to its obligations. It's one of the main reasons the number of refugees has not dropped in Germany to a degree that might reduce political pressure on Merkel.

The idea foresees Slovenia playing a key role -- as the first country after Greece along the West Balkan route that has an external Schengen border. The plan would envision stopping all migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Africa there. Read the full story here.

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