Croatia can cope with the pressure of incoming migrants on its borders, in cooperation with neighbouring countries, Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic and the European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos said in Luxembourg on Tuesday.
“It's important to explain to countries in our neighbourhood the importance of border control and management as a precondition for EU accession. We will soon organise a meeting with interior ministers of the countries along the so-called Balkan route at the European Commission, in which they will be told what is expected of them. Very lively diplomatic activity is currently under way, and that's the only way that can yield real results,” Bozinovic said after meeting with Avramopoulos, held on the margins of a meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council, which consists of ministers from all EU member countries.
Avramopoulos said that although Croatia was under pressure, he is confident that the situation would stay under control in cooperation with neighbouring countries. As other EU countries, Croatia, too, can count on on the European Commission's (EC) full financial, political and practical support, if the need arises and if it requests it, said Avramopoulos.
Bozinovic said the EC could best help Croatia by working closely with countries on the Balkan route.
“Croatia is strong enough and has adequate capacity to do the job without any major problems, even in a situation we have been witnessing lately, when the influx of migrants has been on the rise,” said Bozinovic.
He said that the increased influx of migrants could be prevented only with active contribution from Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
He emphasised Croatia's humane approach to dealing with migrants, as well as its resolve to protect its borders, which are also EU's external borders.
“All who arrive to Croatia illegally, come from safe third countries. Croatia does not border Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Iran. It borders only safe third countries that as such have been put on lists of safe countries, and we expect them to act accordingly – and that refers primarily to the implementation of readmission agreements, which is the best legal way to put the whole process under control,” Bozinovic said.
He described as unrealistic reports that some EU member countries could send back to Croatia thousands of illegal migrants. According to EU rules, illegal migrants should remain in the first EU country they entered, leading to speculations that thousands of migrants currently in Austria and other western countries could be readmitted to Croatia.
“Those figures are unrealistic. A few days ago we took back 50 people for whom there is clear evidence that they had passed through Croatia,” said Bozinovic.
Fabrice Leggeri, the executive director of the European border and coast guard agency Frontex, signed with Bozinovic in Luxembourg on Tuesday a memorandum of understanding on the deployment of a Frontex liaison officer in Croatia.
The liaison officer's role is to help obtain a more clear understanding of what is happening on EU's external borders.
“We have been explaining persistently that the standards of dealing with the migrant crisis on the external borders have to be raised,” Bozinovic said, adding that he and Leggeri also discussed the possibility of putting into operation a centre in Spacva, in eastern Croatia, as a training centre for Frontex officers.