The latest from the migrant crisis in Croatia.
“Frontex, European border management agency, will come to the Croatian-Serbian border, which should in theory slow down the entry of people due to more rigorous procedures. Of course, assuming that everything works from Greece and Macedonia to Serbia. If that happens, it will be good. If not, it will be the same as before”, Croatian prime minister Zoran Milanović said after the meeting of heads of government and states on the so-called Western Balkan route which ended just after midnight at the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels. Milanović said that today and tomorrow trains and buses with migrants will still go from Croatia to Slovenia. “Yes, as long as the story does not stop in Greece”, Milanović said, reports Index.hr and Vecernji List on October 26, 2015.
The Croatian government tried and succeeded in changing the draft of the declaration which called for the end of current Croatian policy of sending refugees and migrants from one border to the other. Prime minister Milanović said earlier that he would not accept any new obligations for Croatia, especially those which were unfavourable.
The leaders adopted a joint declaration, which has been significantly changed in comparison with the draft prepared by the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Significantly changed was the part of the declaration where it said that directing refugee is not acceptable. Now it says that “the policy of directing refugees without notifying neighbouring countries is not acceptable”. The leaders have announced that within 24 hours they will appoint a contact person in their offices in order to facilitate the exchange of information and coordination in the management of the refugee wave.
However, Slovenian prime minister Miro Cerar said in a separate statement to the press that Croatia now has an obligation to cooperate better with Slovenia. He was particularly harsh before the summit, when he warned that the EU would begin to disintegrate within a few days or weeks if it does not find a solution to the current refugee crisis. One of the solutions that Cerar wanted to see was for “Croatia to start behaving differently, to begin communicating, and to stop sending people to Slovenia over the rivers, hungry and tired”.
“He did not say that at the meeting, there he said that the problem was in Greece. I will not use this opportunity to argue with him. If he has a need do say something like that due to his domestic politics, I do not blame him. This has been going on for too long and that places a burden on Austria and Germany. But, if Croatia can do it, so can Slovenia”, Milanović said later.
German chancellor Angela Merkel said after the end of the summit that it was agreed that with the EU assistance “zones of rest” will be created on the Western Balkan migrant route. But, Croatian sources are convinced that none of the refugees and migrants will stay longer in Croatia than they are already staying now.
The meeting was attended by the leaders of Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands.
Greece was under pressure to take in 50,000 migrants in detention centres, which the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras objected to, arguing that the maximum was 30,000, provided that it comes with financial assistance. In the end, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker announced that in Greece and the Western Balkans there will be an increase of capacity to 100,000 migrants. Half of these will be in Greece, and the other half in the Western Balkans, although Juncker did not specify where exactly.
Merkel added that the reception centres will be the “zones of rest”. “It means that at all these locations people would stay a little longer. That includes Croatia, but no more than in other countries, just to help Germany a little bit. But, that is all. Or, everything will stay like it is now”, prime minister Milanović concluded.
In the meantime, refugees and migrants are continuing to cross borders between Serbia and Croatia, and Croatia and Slovenia. From midnight to 9 pm on Sunday, 8,979 migrants and refugees entered Croatia. At the temporary refugee centre in Opatovac, currently there are 1,528 migrants. Since the beginning of the migration crisis, 251,906 migrants and refugees have entered Croatia.
Croatian interior minister Ranko Ostojić said on Sunday that the first refugees and migrants could enter the winter transit centre being built in Slavonski Brod on November 2. The camp will be able to accommodate five thousand people.