By: Dr Andreja Valič Zver, historian and publicist
When, from the 14th century and all the way to the second half of the 17th century, the soldiers of the Turkish Empire threatened the present-day Slovenian territory, killing, looting, burning, raping, enslaving, and emigrating our ancestors, the fear of “invaders from the east” was anchored in the Slovenian consciousness. Even folk songs, fairy tales and tales describe the atrocities that the Slovenian nation had to feel and survive in those uncertain centuries.
The stories about vicious men, Jurij Kozjaks, and Mikl’s Zalas, who were driven as janissaries and slaves to the centres of the Ottoman Empire, echoed in Slovenian souls for centuries. The victories of Christian Europe over the Islamicised Turkish soldiers in Lepanto in 1571, in Sisak in 1593, and in Vienna in 1683 were therefore rightly highly valued and celebrated. But no one, absolutely no one from the survivors and descendants of the attacked nation, would have thought that at the beginning of the 21st century, many Slovenian men and women would once again fear for their safety and possessions, and that the “danger from the east” would once again be upon us.
Lest you say that I am telling you about the historical parallels just like that, by heart and without context, let me serve you with some recent worrying facts. Data from Frontex point to a dangerous trend of renewed intensive revival of migrant routes through the Western Balkans and then through Slovenian territory to the promised destinations in Western Europe. After the record number of illegal migrations in 2015 due to the “willkommen culture”, their number stagnated for a few years, but since 2019 it has been increasing again by leaps and bounds. In 2021, the number of illegal migrants doubled to 61,735 uninvited arrivals. But the numbers for 2022 give you goose bumps: in the first eight months alone, more than 86,000 illegal migrants crossed the borders in the direction of the west via the Western Balkans. Almost three times more than in 2021 and ten times more than in 2019!!! Most of them are Syrians, Afghans and Turks. But there are also Indians, Burundians, Moroccans, Algerians, and others, most of whom could hardly be said to be in immediate danger to their lives. A large number of illegal migrants are now arriving by air to Serbia, which has relaxed the visa regime and thus actually enabled an unbridled stampede on neighbouring countries, the entire region, and the European space. In this case, is it really only about people who are looking for a better existence and survival in a cruel world? A valid question. But at the same time, it is an indisputable fact that criminal smuggling gangs earn fat money by suffering people.
Only an extremely naïve person would not think about the background of such “invasions” and their infernal timing at a time when Europe is already writhing in a convulsion of countless problems that threaten its existence. The war in Ukraine, the energy winter, problems in food supply and endangered agriculture, impending hunger, and poverty, sleeping terrorist cells in European countries and on and on.
I should mention that a few days ago the Hungarian, Austrian and Serbian presidents met in Budapest. Orban, Nehammer, and Vučić warned that the Western Balkans is a target and the main route for illegal migrants to Western European destinations. They promised themselves that they would protect their countries as much as possible in all possible ways. For example, Vučić promised that by the end of the year, Serbia will harmonise its visa policy with EU policy. You might even applaud this if you did not know that 480,000 asylum permits were issued in the EU in the first seven months of 2022 alone. Before the covid-19 pandemic, a total of 375,288 permits were issued throughout 2019, the most in Germany, France, and Spain. Among the winners, the most numerous were Afghans, Syrians, and Venezuelans. Well, the data for Austria shows that they currently have around 70,000 asylum seekers from India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
At the same time, we wonder why, for example, Slovenia was missing from the meeting in Budapest. As if it is in any less in danger than Austria. Or maybe better protected? Hmm, because of the removal of the wire fence at the will of Golob’s government, we are at most much more vulnerable. Any naivety is completely unnecessary and even dangerous. Such pressure of illegal migrants on European countries is no coincidence, but rather a reflection of ruthless “realpolitik” and a brutal desire to change the world map, which after a period of relative thawing and the end of the Cold War, burst into the light again with all its force. But if anyone, Slovenians have self-preservation DNA written in our thresholds, which wakes up every time an uninvited and unwanted “guest from the east” knocks on our door. With all the necessary compassion for people who need help, such as those from Ukraine, we have a duty to take care of our home hearths and our descendants first.