Fortress Europe? Meet Slovenia’s Open Schengen Crossing with Croatia

Total Croatia News

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All photos copyright Total Croatia News

May 21, 2019 – Looking to walk into Europe without having to deal with barbed wire challenges? Meet the Slovenian crossing with Croatia where the unguarded gate is conveniently left open.  

It is a border which has become increasingly contentious in recent years. The arbitration process between Croatia and Slovenia in the bay of Piran was a dispute dating back to the break up of former Yugoslavia, but the migrant crisis has put increasing pressure on the border between the two countries in recent years. 

Slovenia’s decision to erect barbed wire along much of its border with Croatia in 2015 in order to stem the tide of migrants met with protests, and even a game of volleyball between the two counties, with the wire as the net

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The wire remains. The first line of defence for Schengen countries to keep out illegal and unwanted arrivals from Fortress Europe. 

So it was a little bit of a surprise yesterday when I went to a particular part of the border for a totally different story I was working on, only to find this. 

The road was blocked by a fence. The barbed wire was in place. But the gate was open. 

And there was no police presence either side of the border. While it was not possible to drive through this crossing, there was plenty of room for people on foot. Walk on just 10 metres to the main road, and you were free to explore Slovenia. There were absolutely no checks. 

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The view from the Slovenian side. 

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The story I had come to do was about this restaurant, which I had read was located half in Croatia and half in Slovenia. One of the victims of the break-up of former Yugoslavia, the border ran through the middle of the restaurant. This gave the Kalin Tavern near Bregana a certain notoriety, and it appeared in the international media on several occasions. Here is a more sobering assessment of the fate of the restaurant in the AP video below.

Although the restaurant itself was located in two countries, access was only from the Slovenian side. As The Daily Beast reported back in 2014:

As I arrive, I notice a string of cement flowerpots blocking the road right outside the tavern. Apparently, these were put in place shortly after the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991 to prohibit the passage of cars over the border. Unable to resist, I walk over to the flowerpot-barricade and stretch one leg over onto Croatian soil. As if on cue, a yellow light turns on inside a small guardhouse about a hundred feet away on the Croatian side, and a border guard starts to make his way down to the barricade in the rain. I feel like I am in a John Le Carré novel and scurry into the tavern in hopes of avoiding an “international incident.”

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That was then. The situation yesterday was as follows:

The concrete blocks have gone, the restaurant has been closed for a couple of years due to lack of business caused by the border (locals told me most of the guests were from Croatia). In place of the concrete blocks, the fence with barbed with is in place. The checkpoint on the Croatian side is totally unmanned and looks as though it has not been used for some time. 

And the gate is open, leaving anyone who wants to walk into the Schengen zone with the perfect opportunity. 

I asked some locals how this was possible. I was told by more than one that the gate is left open for locals to pass through (which makes sense), and that it is closed at 10pm each night.

Border control? They laughed. The crossing is manned in the season, but not now. The Slovenians have cameras, say the Croatian locals, and the fine for entering without permission is 400 euros. There is no control, according to the same local sources, on the Croatian side. 

An open entry to the Schengen zone. 

I drove on to my appointment in Slovenia, crossing at another border further south. At the passport control, I explained the situation to the Croatian border guard.

“It shouldn’t be like that.”

Well, as these pictures show, it is.  

I did call the Ministry of Interior this afternoon to point out the problem, but there was no answer. My experience of dealing with Croatian institutions is that action comes quicker once the problem hits the Internet. 

Looking to cross legally from Croatia to Slovenia? Here is the complete Total Croatia guide



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