Minister Admits Police Violence, Does Not Fear about Schengen Accession

By 9 October 2021

ZAGREB, 9 October - Interior Minister Davor Božinović confirmed in Luxembourg on Friday that Croatian police officers had taken part in the violence against migrants on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, but that that wouldn't affect Croatia's aspirations to join the Schengen Area.

Several European media outlets released on Wednesday evening disturbing video recordings showing masked men wearing clothes similar to Croatian police uniforms pushing migrants back to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Masked men were pushing back migrants from Croatia across a backwater of the Korana river, hitting them with batons such as those used by riot police. Some of the men also wore vests like those of riot police.

"As soon as he saw the footage, the police direct sent a task force that worked very intensively and as far as I know at the moment, they determined that those had been police officers," Božinović said in Luxembourg, where he is participating in a meeting of EU home affairs ministers.

He assumes that it was a case of "individual acts of violation committed by several police officers".

Božinović added that the director or someone from the police directorate should provide more details.

The minister considers that those incidents will not cause negative political reactions in the EU, with regard to Croatia's efforts to join the Schengen Area.

"No, I don't expect negative reactions at all. In every police in the world, since police officers are in close contact with citizens, with offenders and with all categories of people, it happens that they exceed their powers. We'll see if that was the case here, and then sanctions will be imposed," Božinović said.

"If legal proceedings would prove what we are talking about, then that is certainly unacceptable behaviour, but I wouldn't link it exclusively to the suppression of illegal migration. That is unacceptable behaviour of a police officers in any situation, be it on the street, at the stadium or somewhere else," he added.

As for Croatia's accession to the Schengen Area, Božinović said that things were going well, that the most demanding negotiations for joining the area without internal border control had been completed, that police had shown their readiness and that they had successfully passes the strict evaluation of external borders protection.

After video recordings of violence against migrants in Croatia and Greece have been released in several EU countries, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylve Johansson said on Thursday that they were shocking and that there was convincing evidence of misuse of European funds, which the EU gives to its member states for external border management.

EC Spokesperson Adalbert Jahnz announced an investigation into whether Croatia had used the money from European border managements funds for the accommodation of staff who had taken part in the forced pushbacks of migrants.

We closely monitor how European money is spent and if it is established that is was used for illegal actions, then there may be a suspension of payment or fines or requests for returning the money, Jahnz said.