Thursday, 21 February 2019

Croatia Dismisses Bosnian Claims about Illegal Return of Migrants

ZAGREB, February 21, 2019 - Croatia's Interior Minister Davor Božinović on Wednesday rejected the Bihać mayor's accusations about the Croatian police illegally entering Bosnia and Herzegovina in Una-Sana Canton to bring back illegal migrants who were found on Croatian territory.

"I dismiss such insinuations. These are false accusations aimed at diverting attention from the key question of how those people came to Bihać and why they arrived there," Božinović said in Istanbul where he attended a two-day conference on migrations organised by the Budapest Process.

Back in 2017 we alerted Bosnia and Herzegovina's authorities about the trend of increasing migrant tides through Bosnia and Herzegovina and suggested that they should step up the protection of the borders with the countries from which migrants were arriving to Bosnia. Furthermore, it has been clearly stated on several occasions that the problem cannot be solved by allowing migrants to walk illegally into Croatia, Božinović said.

Croatia does now allow irregular migrations and is permanently reinforcing the police force to protect the borders, primarily due to irregular migrants who are trying to enter our country from Una-Sana Canton, obviously with the permission of those who are supposed to deter them, the Croatian minister said.

The Bihac mayor, Suhret Fazlić, made the accusations against the Croatian police at a session of the Bihać town council which discussed the migrant crisis which hit this part of Bosnia and Herzegovina the hardest.

Prevention and combating of irregular migrations and enhancement of conditions for regular migrants and their integration are key targets of a five-year plan of the Budapest Process, which held a conference in Istanbul on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Interior Minister Davor Božinović, who represented Croatia at the conference, said on Wednesday that all countries along the migrant route should enhance their cooperation.

Addressing the conference, Božinović underscored that commitment to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms "is supposed to go hand in hand with the right of each country to control its borders and define its migrations policy" in order to curb irregular migrations and help refugees in need.

In his statement for Hina, Božinović said that the main conclusion of the Istanbul conference is that countries that are the source of migrations, transit countries and destination countries in Europe need to cooperate more closely.

"We, too, are registering a growing number of irregular migrants from the countries of the Silk Road route that are here – Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iran. It is therefore essential to open talks and see, from the perspective of the European Union and a wider international community, how that issue should be approached and how the reasons why those irregular migrants are leaving (those countries) should be tackled. Nothing will be solved overnight but dialogue is important," the Croatian minister said.

The Budapest Process is a consultative forum with over 50 governments and numerous international organisations, aiming at developing comprehensive and sustainable systems for orderly migration. During its more than 25 years of operation, the Process has developed from an information sharing tool between European countries in a pre-EU enlargement setting to a far-reaching European-Asian forum for improving migration management. It has been chaired by Turkey and co-chaired by Hungary since 2006.

Asked about the arrivals of regular migrants who seek asylum in Croatia, Božinović said that Croatia had already taken in about 150 refugees and that it was planning to accommodate an additional hundred refugees.

Croatia is recognised in the international community as a member that participates in the process of refugee resettlement and it is proving its humanity to the extent to which it can afford it, he said.

During his two-day stay in Istanbul, Božinović held bilateral talks with his colleagues from Hungary, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Greece.

He underscored that his talks with his counterparts from Afghanistan and Pakistan focused on the developments in those two Asian countries.

The Budapest Process identifies several priority areas including preventing and counteracting irregular migration while facilitating return and readmission of irregular migrants and fighting illegal networks for migrant smuggling as well as strengthening the positive impact of migration on development.

More news about the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Is Croatian Police Illegally Returning Migrants to Bosnia?

ZAGREB, February 20, 2019 - The mayor of the northwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina town of Bihać, Suhret Fazlić, on Wednesday accused the Croatian police of illegally entering Bosnia and Herzegovina in Una-Sana Canton where they are bringing illegal migrants who were found on Croatian territory and who, before that, somehow managed to cross the state border.

At the same time, the chairman of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency, Milorad Dodik, warned that Bosnia and Herzegovina could not handle illegal migrations on its own and that the European Union must get involved.

Fazlić made the accusations against the Croatian police at a session of the Bihac town council which discussed the migrant crisis which hit this part of Bosnia and Herzegovina the hardest.

"You must not allow the Croatian police to bring here 30, 40, 100 migrants each day, bypassing the official border crossing. I am offended as a Bosnian citizen that someone from another country can enter Bosnia's territory and do as they please, regardless of how friendly that country might be. Croatian police and special forces are entering Bosnia, bringing migrants and sending them back to Bihac," Fazlić told N1 television.

The Bihać mayor claims that the Bosnian Serb entity police behaved in a similar fashion, saying that they were immediately arresting all migrants found on their territory and bringing them to the Bosnian State Ministry of Security which then automatically sends migrants to Bihac," N1 broadcaster cited Fazlić as saying. "Bosnia and Herzegovina must resolve this," Fazlić said.

The Bihać town council adopted a conclusion demanding the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina to urgently voice its opinion about illegal migrations and take measures aimed at efficiently controlling the migrant crisis.

More news on the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Croatian Interior Minister Attending Conference on Migration Challenges

ZAGREB, February 19, 2019 – Croatian Interior Minister Davor Božinović arrived in Istanbul on Tuesday to attend the 6th ministerial conference within the Budapest Process, which was launched 25 years ago to identify and address evolving migration challenges.

"I will have an opportunity to talk with a number of key interlocutors from the countries that are sources of migration and countries lying on migrant routes. This is part of our ongoing diplomatic activities, because Croatia, which guards the longest European border, is very interested in dialogue with all those involved in migration-related issues," Božinović told Hina.

The two-day conference has brought together officials from more than 50 countries from Europe, the Middle East and Asia as well as representatives of over 15 organisations.

The conference is an opportunity for Croatia to confirm that it is a country active in political dialogue and operational implementation of the policies aimed at boosting cooperation in efforts to curb illegal migration, people smuggling and other trans-national security challenges such as organised crime and terrorism, Minister Božinović said.

"Over the last 25 years, the Budapest Process has become recognised by participating states both in East and West as well as further stakeholders, as an excellent tool for identifying and addressing evolving migration challenges," the forum's official website says.

On Wednesday, the Croatian interior minister is scheduled to hold bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Hungary, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Greece.

More news about the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Croatia to Receive Another 150 People under Refugee Relocation Scheme

ZAGREB, February 14, 2019 - The government adopted a decision on Thursday to receive another 150 people under the EU refugee relocation scheme, and this applies to citizens of third countries or without citizenship who qualify for international protection this year.

"By implementing the relocation programme and with this decision, the government is trying to ensure a legal arrival of citizens of third countries or persons without citizenship who are in need of international protection to the EU area to an extent that is sustainable for Croatia, whereby we wish to additionally avoid the deaths and exploitation by traffickers of people arriving in the EU irregularly," said Interior Minister Davor Božinović.

Croatia adopted the first such decision in July 2015, receiving 152 Syrian citizens.

A second decision, on the resettlement of another 100 persons, was adopted in October 2017, the minister said, adding that logistical preparations were under way on the relocation of Syrian citizens from Turkey to Croatia.

Croatia is adopting this decision based on available capacity, to meet obligations stemming from European and international documents on refugees, and taking into account the fact that, as an EU member state, it supports the principle of solidarity and equal sharing of responsibility, Božinović said.

More news on the migrant policies can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Croatian Captain Refuses to Help Drowning Migrants?

The commander of the Cordula Jacob tanker, allegedly a Croatian captain, is under investigation by the prosecution in Rome for failing to assist the shipwrecked. About 117 people eventually drowned, including ten women, one of whom was pregnant, and two children, including one infant, reports on February 10, 2019.

According to Slobodna Dalmacija, the investigation was initially launched against the Italian Coast Guard, but after obtaining documents and listening to radio messages, it was redirected towards the Croatian seaman whose name is not known to the public.

On 18 January, the ship was sailing in the Mediterranean Sea, not far from the Libyan coast, about 42 miles north of Garabulli. The surviving three migrants – one from the Gambia and two from Ghana – claim that there were 120 people on a dinghy, that the smugglers had set them to sail without life jackets, that the dinghy lost air while on the sea, that the shipwrecked people fell one by one into the cold sea and soon drowned.

During the rescue operation, the closest merchant vessel Cordula Jacob was alarmed. According to the Italian military authorities, at the time it was 36.5 miles from the dinghy, about two hours of sailing, and could, by the same estimates, reach the shipwreck before the helicopter and possibly save more people.

It is not known why the commander hesitated and what he was told and asked to do by either Libyan or Italian naval authorities. Since Libya has established control over its maritime zone, merchant ships hesitate to come to aid because they can lose far more time than is necessary for receiving and transferring the shipwrecked, and shipowners do not measure time with a chronometer but instead with money.

The Italian naval authorities have allegedly managed to convince the commander of Cordula Jacob to change course and go towards the shipwreck only after threatening him to never again be able to sail into an Italian or Libyan port, according to La Repubblica.

Translated from

More news on the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Bosnian Migrant Centres on Border with Croatia Overcrowded

ZAGREB, February 6, 2019 - The local authorities in Una-Sana Canton, northwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina, have warned that they have no more capacity to accept new irregular migrants and called on the state government in Sarajevo to take on the responsibility for migrant centres in the area.

The cantonal task force in charge of managing the migrant crisis called on the state-level Security Ministry to take over the control over the migrant reception centres in the towns of Bihać, Velika Kladuša and Cazin.

The cantonal authorities insist that the migrant tide must be put under control and that quotas for accommodation of migrants must be respected in line with available capacities.

Una-Sana Canton is due to cater for up to 3,200 migrants.

The largest reception centre is in the "Bira" factory in Bihać and has the capacity for 1,500 persons. However, it is already catering for nearly 2,000.

A few days ago, a mass fight erupted involving hundreds of migrants, and tens of them were injured.

More news on the migrant crisis in the region can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Migrant Entrepreneurship Neglected in Croatia

ZAGREB, February 5, 2019 - Migrant entrepreneurship has great potential, but in Croatia that is a marginal topic and there are several obstacles preventing it from developing, above all administrative and financial obstacles, it was said at a panel discussion on Tuesday.

Mirela Alpeza, the director of the Centre for Development Policy for SMEs (CEPOR) believes that the issue of migrant entrepreneurship is inadequately represented in the public and political spheres, adding that there is a lot of potential in migrant entrepreneurship which isn't being utilised in Croatia.

For example, there are 37 million people living in the EU who were not born there, which makes up for 7% of the total population. In Great Britain, one in seven companies is a migrant company and they employ 14% of the population in that country. In the past 20 years, the number of migrant companies in the USA has increased from 13% to 28%.

The head of the Asylum, Integration and Human Safety Programme at the Centre for Peace Studies, Sara Kekuš, warned of a lack of statistical data on migrant entrepreneurship in Croatia.

She underscored the lack of a strategy and a public policy for the social and economic integration of migrants, adding that the current action plan focuses only on refugees and not migrants.

Kekuš added that the biggest problem facing migrant entrepreneurship is red tape, above all trying to obtain a Personal Identification Number (OIB) or taxation number required to launch or register a business.

In addition, foreigners from third countries are required to deposit at least 100,000 kuna in founding capital to start a public company or as much as 200,000 kuna to start a private company, which for most migrants is impossible.

More news on the migrant issues in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Interior Minister Visits Turkish-Syrian Border, Discusses Migrant Crisis

ZAGREB, January 31, 2019 - Europe will have to do more about the resolving of conflicts and finding of peaceful solutions in its neighbourhood, Croatian Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on the Turkish-Syrian border on Wednesday, visiting two camps in which Turkey has taken in some of the nearly four million Syrian refugees fleeing from military conflicts in their country.

"In the future, Europe will have to do more about conflict solving, about finding peace agreements, because we have seen how much Europe is exposed if its immediate neighbourhood is... destabilised. Unless the situation here is under control, in Europe we can expect various events which we don't want to see," Božinović told Croatian reporters at a Turkish-Syrian border crossing near Kilis, Turkey.

He said Europe must utilise the strength it "realistically has" given that, economically, it is one of the most developed parts of the world. "Europe also has the resources. It's just a matter of agreeing on their use and of how much European, not just narrow national goals, come first to all stakeholders in Europe."

After visiting the refugee camps, Božinović reiterated that Turkey had invested a lot of effort to accommodate almost four million people from Syria. "The logistic support is at a very high level. There are schools, religious facilities, different courses are being organised," he said, adding that in the two camps he visited more than 5,000 children were born in the past few years.

He said the lasting solution was for the people to return to their homes and that he hoped "reason will prevail and that the EU will play a stronger part." "If Europe doesn't play a strong, active role in conflict prevention, we will deal with such crises in future too and that's in nobody's interest."

"In several weeks a delegation from our Interior Ministry will arrive in Turkey and choose another 100 people to come to Croatia. It is important, however, not to make any wrong moves in these integration efforts, because all the failures of the integration policy in the European union came back to haunt us through very radical events in recent history," Božinović said.

He told the press in Turkey that in the 1990s Croatia had one million refugees, mostly from Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also from other parts of Croatia. He said that he had seen efforts made by all parties involved and a great amount of humanity. Božinović said that regardless of the fact that Turkey was doing all that it could, there was no place like home.

Božinović visited the two refugee camps outside Nizip and Kilis, each accommodating approximately 4,000 people, and held talks with camp administrators and refugees.

Most of refugees that the Croatian media talked to there want to go back to Syria but have no means to do that.

More news on the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Interior Minister Visits Turkey to Discuss Refugee Crisis

ZAGREB, January 30, 2019 - During talks with his Turkish counterpart Suleyman Soylu in Ankara on Tuesday, Croatian Interior Minister Davor Božinović underscored that Turkey, particularly due to its care for almost four million refugees, was Croatia's and also the European Union's strategic partner. "Croatia values Turkey's efforts in resolving the refugee crisis," Božinović said after the meeting at Turkey's interior ministry.

Both ministers underlined that this was their second meeting following the UN conference in Marakesh where they had also discussed bilateral relations and strengthening cooperation in the field of security and migration management. "Migration remains the leading challenge that requires a comprehensive response, particularly when it comes to illegal migration and smuggling networks that have recently intensified their activities on alternative routes," Božinović said.

Soylu recalled the historical ties between Croatia and Turkey, adding that relations with Croatia would continue to be important in the future too. "We have similar thoughts. We had an opportunity to discuss relations between Croatia and Turkey. We exchanged opinions on the issues of terrorism and drug smuggling, and agreed to fight that together," he said.

He expressed hope that when Croatia chairs the Council of the EU in 2020, Turkey would progress toward the European Union, particularly because the presidents of the two countries had already agreed to intensify relations.

Božinović said that security would be one of Croatia's priorities during its EU presidency, including migration, border security, the fight against terrorism, organised and cybercrime.

On Wednesday, the Croatian delegation will visit refugee camps on the Syrian border.

According to UNHCR data, there are currently 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees in Turkey. According to an EU-Turkey agreement, Turkey receives six billion euro from Europe and Croatia has so far paid in 5.7 euro million for that purpose. In the fourth quarter of this year, Croatia will contribute an additional 250,000 euro and a further 3 million euro in a total of 10 instalments from 2019 to 2023.

According to data from the Croatian Interior Ministry, 152 Syrians have been integrated into Croatian society to date following a 2015 decision that has been implemented by the present government. In October 2017, the government decided to accept an additional 100 refugees.

More news on the refugee crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Vlaho Orepić Talks Police, MOST and New Political Party - Nova Politika

Vlaho Orepić has seen his fair share of political alterations in Croatia, from becoming minister of the interior during Tihomir Orešković's government, to being shockingly dismissed by Andrej Plenković, to stepping down as an MP for MOST, one of the partners of the former ruling coalition, eventually breaking away entirely and forming a new party of his own - Nova Politika.

Known for not only his position as the minister of the interior, but for his achievements in the sporting world and his political activities in his beloved town of Ploče, Konavle-born Orepić sat down with us to discuss the past, the present, and the future, including his new party.

Why did you decide to set up a brand new political party? What values ​​does it, and you, represent?

Through the experiences I gained through my civic activism, and then through my direct participation in the work of the Government and the Parliament of Croatia I realised that politics in Croatia is not what should be expected of it. It doesn't do the work of the people. On the contrary, all the policies of the past have disrupted the [lives of the] Croatian people, and has impoverished the Croatian economy.

So, we need something new, that is Nova Politika, which will be what people expect it to be, and that means working for the people. This need, this message, and these values ​​are contained in the idea and the very name Nova Politika.

How will your party differ from the countless others who are already operating in Croatia?

We simply need order in the country, as well as in political and social relations because we as a country aren't in a crisis, but we are in disorder. The basic two goals of Nova Politika are the protection of democratic principles and procedures in political relations and the institutional arrangement, as well as the optimisation of the state. Nova Politika as a party is, unlike others, a project. A project of getting together with the aim of institutional convergence from the current disorder putting the country in order.

There are many challenges which require ambitious structural reforms, so new, life-motivated policies are needed.

First and foremost, what we're going to invest a huge amount of energy into is the struggle for the legitimacy of elections. The outcomes of the entire series of electoral processes in Croatia are crucially influenced by the voices of those who have filed a false residence in the Republic of Croatia, and as such gain a whole range of substantive rights, as well as voting rights. In its electoral register, Croatia has at least 150,000 such fictional voters. Parliament has a minimum of 4-6 parliamentarians who base their mandate on those fictional voters. That's been going on for far too long and it needs to stop.

Why did not you take advantage of this opportunity and as the minister of the interior, solve this problem?

I didn't manage to. They dismissed me. I believe that you're familiar with the fact that I uncompromisingly tried to solve this problem. In just two and a half months, the police, to whom the law prescribed that obligation, prompted the deletion of 45,000 fictional residences. Very rapidly this figure has grown to 75,000. This issue, because of political incitement and abuse, is an exceptional problem in our society.

What is especially disturbing is that this is intractable abuse and a kind of blackmail of people in need. People who, because of realistic, existential problems, engage in illegal behavior such as the fictitious reporting of residence in the Republic of Croatia. The Republic of Croatia should systematically and legally care about its emigrants and not just keep tolerating this crime.

You've endured huge political resistance to this engagement of yours and even personal discreditation. Judging from your findings, which parties have encouraged fictitious voters to participate in the elections in the Republic of Croatia?

Fictitious voters' transport from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina was organised by the HDZ, SDSS and even MOST, which was concealing it from me as its minister. Even the activists engaged in the recent referendum initiatives have also collected signatures in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the pre-election campaign for local elections in Vrgorac, HDZ had a poster with a cross marked over my face which they stuck in neighbouring places and cities in western Herzegovina. With which they called "their" fictional voters to come to the elections.

But that doesn't matter anymore. It's important to realise the magnitude of this problem and to get credible electoral registers as soon as possible in order to guarantee the legality of elections in the Republic of Croatia. We need to get that in order. To move forward, we need to be able to count the results of the elections to match the real will of the citizens. That's Nova Politika.

Will someone who is already active in political or public life enter your party? Maybe one of the members of MOST? 

I hope we'll all be able get together around the goal as Nova Politika is focused on its political goal, and all those who see Croatia as a decent and well-regulated state are welcome. Let's say that proper order in the area of [registering] ​​residence should be the target of everyone who wishes our homeland well.  This is what I expect especially from those who ran their election campaigns based on fictional voters and who claim they're sovereign.

Will you participate in the forthcoming European Parliament elections, and will you have your candidate for the president of the Republic of Croatia?

The focus is on parliamentary elections. But Nova Politika partaking either alone or in cooperation with someone else in all the upcoming elections hasn't been ruled out.

What's your opinion on the work of current President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović. Will you back her for a second term?

She failed to portray herself as the president of all citizens. We definitely need a new president.

At the moment, the most current issue is the collapse of an Israeli jet plane purchase. Do you think Croatia needs war planes? If so, how much money would you be willing to invest in their purchase?

We don't need to call the need for war planes into question. But what we need to take into account is our financial situation. At this point, we have no money for that. We have a whole series of challenges that are related to our bare existence. We must take into account the life priorities that hav arisen from the situation in which we're in and live within our means. Aircraft, at this time, aren't something we can afford and aren't a priority.

MOST has been looking like a conservative party recently, more and more. Do you share such a vision? If not, why were you in that party at all?

I don't share the current worldview of MOST, which is significantly different from the one they were trying to show, and which dominated while I was in MOST. The leaders of MOST have repositioned MOST within the frameworks of their own personal worldviews. It isn't mature, and it is a type of conflict politics, this is a political environment which I can't identify with.

Why did you leave MOST?

MOST as a party abandoned the very idea of ​​MOST, so I left MOST.

In two HDZ-MOST coalition governments, you were the interior minister. Would you enter into a coalition with HDZ again? Will you remain in the Parliament as an opposition representative until the end of your mandate or does a possibility for you to support the current government exist?

I'm going to remain an opposition MP.

Which parties would you potentially enter into a coalition with?

With this very question you've addressed a big problem in the functioning of politics in the Republic of Croatia. Nobody asks you what your suggestions are. What are your political goals, etc. People are already accepting or rejecting you on the basis of your ideological orientation. This approach to politics is wrong and that's why we need Nova Politika. A policy that highlights clear goals and their implementation brings together the necessary majority. We need to evolve current politics into realistic politics. Politics that can and should be measurable. Politics which will be conditioned by the mutual interaction of the principles of trust and responsibility.

Davor Božinović succeeded you as the minister of the interior. How do you evaluate his work?

He's completely unambiguous in his approach in these circumstances we're in and his root changes make him look superficial. Manipulation with fictitious residences and some staffing solutions paralysed the operational work of the police and indicated a lack of workability. He acts unambiguously because he has no ambition and therefore no actual results.

What do you think about the Croatian police's treatment in relation to migrants on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina? Does the behavior of the police differ now than from when you were minister?

The migrant policy of Croatia, of which a lot is dealt with by the police I consider to be good. The work on the frontier is on the line of the one that was designed and established during my mandate. There is no leg room when it comes to illegal border crossings but there's also a very human approach when it comes to caring for people in need. Some isolated failures in treatment can't diminish the significance of the police work done.

When talking about migration policy, every day Croatia that it is a responsible member of the EU, because don't forget that the Croatian police, in protecting the borders of the Republic of Croatia, are also working to protect the EU's external borders.

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