Western Balkans: Speaking points for bilateral meetings 1. As mentioned during the conference, WB countries are not third countries - they are first partners of the EU. This is important to transpose to them with a view to continuing building our partnership with the region. 2. We need to support building an understanding that the WB countries are not only countries of transit, but important countries of origin and increasingly de facto destination. We need to support creating full ownership for migration management. a. The overall migration management situation throughout the region remains fragile, party as migration is mainly considered a transit issue. Huge investments have been made for capacity building in the region but a more systematic approach is needed. As the prevalent view is that for migrants and asylum seekers, WB countries are not attractive to stay in, or apply for protection in, due to the economic conditions and rights provided to them as far livelihood related issues are concerned. This perspective is affecting the political ownership of the migration process. 3. Therefore we think support is needed to the countries of the region to develop future oriented migration policies that are rather proactive than reactive and build on regular monitoring of the developments in countries of origins and transit, as well as destination. 4. We also want to support the countries of the region to be pro- active stakeholders shaping their own migration priorities and also to grow as EU partners. Along these lines we are working with North Macedonia and BiH to strengthen the role of the WB countries regarding development and implementation of EU policies. The countries would like to take the EU Pact as a starting point for upgrading their own migration systems - through introducing similar
elements in their countries - and through this also strengthen their cooperation with the EU at the same time. This initiative is supported by Germany as the present Chair of the ICMPD Steering Group. 5. Turning to specific topic of today’s conference - return, ICMPD is convinced that it is possible to make return work from the region, with the right mechanisms, the right partners and the right commitment. ICMPD has the following priorities, also to support creating a regional return mechanism. a. Create a Western Balkan network of return experts. Similar to the EU’s ERRIN network which we helped run, the network would share information, exchange best practices and work on problem cases in detail. b. Support voluntary return. The return network could also offer joint reintegration services to support Assisted Voluntary Return in 35 countries of origin, as ERRIN did. Many of the necessary contacts, contracting agents and networks are already in place. ICMPD is supporting authorities in BiH to build an AVR system. This builds on experiences with Turkey: ICMPD established a national AVRR programme in cooperation with ERRIN in Turkey. c. Develop a regional monitoring system for forced returns. Over the last years, ICMPD has trained forced return monitors from the EU, Western Balkan countries, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova. We worked with Frontex and FRA to develop training guidelines and a dedicated pool of monitors across the EU to assist with the smooth running of joint return operations. ICMPD could help with developing a joint training concept and specialised pool of experts in line with the specific needs and legal frameworks. d. We work to support all WB countries in their “migration diplomacy” to facilitate cooperation with countries of origins and transit - both bilateral and multilateral - through our
organisational network and also through the dialogues, especially the Budapest Process. Effective return depends on cooperation with countries of origin to take back their own nationals. ICMPD recently organised a multilateral visit to Pakistan in cooperation with Austria, Czechia, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland - as well as the EUAA. We could conduct similar multi-country exercises with priority countries also for the Western Balkans. 6. Access of migrants and refugees to information: Of crucial importance, also for functioning return and voluntary return is that migrants have sufficient information, also migrants in transit. We are working on outreach to migrants and refugees that are in transit in the WB to inform them on the institutional structures and promoting their access to services and ensure protection for those who are in need.