Germany: Croatian Police Protecting Border Properly

By 24 January 2020

ZAGREB, January 24, 2020 - Germany's Minister of the Interior, Building and Community, Horst Seehofer, said in Zagreb on Thursday that Croatia was protecting the border properly and that he had no objections to the treatment of migrants by Croatian border police.

Asked by reporters whether he considered that in light of criticism by non-governmental organisations of excessive use of force toward migrants, Croatia was appropriately protecting the EU's external border, Seehofer replied affirmatively. "I believe it is," Seehofer told a joint press conference with Croatian Interior Minister Davor Božinović after their bilateral meeting.

"I do not have any criticism of the work of the police in Croatia and other security services," he said.

Seehofer, a former leader of the Christian-Social Union and prime minister of Bavaria, was a sharp critic of Chancellor Angela Merkel's "open door" policy toward migrants at the height of the migrant crisis.

"When it comes to protecting the security of citizens and the state, a strong state is needed to ensure the rule of law. That's how it is in Germany and that's the duty of interior ministers," Seehofer concluded.

Seehofer underscored that he agreed with Božinović "one hundred percent" regarding issues of priorities, security analyses and migrants.

"That will be a topic that we will be concerned with for some time yet," he said and added that Germany will help Croatia as much as it can to protect the EU's external border.

In that context, Germany donated ten thermal-vision cameras to Croatia to supervise border regions which the two ministers inspected after the conference.

Božinović thanked Seehofer for the donation and said that "Germany has always helped" Croatia.

"Croatian police guard the longest external European Union land border and Germany is one of those member states that understands and values what Croatian police are doing," said Božinović.

The German minister agreed with the priorities of Croatia's EU presidency and said that Germany, which will take over the presidency from Croatia in July, will continue Croatia's policies which means that this will be a "year of continuing work."

Božinović underlined that he would cooperate with Seehofer in Combating smuggling rings, and said they agreed that the EU has to help its "Greek friends" more as Greece is the first point of entry for illegal and other migrants from the Middle East toward Europe.

The Index.hr news portal on Wednesday released a video showing that police whose badges were not visible were confiscating mobile phones from migrants.

"It is not true that the police did not have badges. They were wearing badges on one of two spots as required," Božinović said and added that the police were "appropriately prepared."

"As far as the treatment of persons without any identification is concerned, they (police) conducted an absolutely legal procedure toward them," Božinović added.

Slovenia's Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar said on Tuesday that in 2019 Slovenia had returned 16,000 illegal migrants to Croatia.

Božinović underscored that it is necessary to differentiate the "number of procedures" from the number of persons returned because some migrants attempt to cross the border several times, which means that 16,000 police procedures does not necessarily mean 16,000 migrants.

"As you know, migrants who seek protection in Croatia, before Croatian authorities decide on their application, merely disappear from Croatia," Božinović said claiming that that is why migrants are returned to Croatia.

"Someone submits an application for asylum in Croatia, is issued with a certificate of international protection and then disappears," said Božinović.

"Those people are returned when they are caught somewhere in Europe and that is how we get to those numbers," concluded Božinović.

Seehofer arrived in Zagreb for an informal meeting of EU interior ministers on Friday.

More news about relations between Croatia and Germany can be found in the Politics section.