Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Croatian Military Ready to Help Police in Guarding the Borders

ZAGREB, March 3, 2020 - The Croatian Army (HV) is ready to help the police in guarding the Croatian borders against a new wave of migrants, Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said on Tuesday.

"The HV is ready to help our police if necessary. Our task is to ensure that the border is secure and to protect our national interests. I have ordered the Chief of the General Staff to make all the necessary plans. We are ready," Krstičević told reporters at a ceremony at which Vice Admiral Robert Hranj assumed the duties of the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces.

Commenting on the statement by President Zoran Milanovic that procedures for the treatment of migrants at the border were not precise, the defence minister said that that would be rectified.

"In our actions we will always take care of the security of Croatian soldiers and everyone else, including migrants. We know how to behave according to rules," Krstičević said.

Vice Admiral Hranj said that the military had had operational plans in place for quite some time now in the event that it should help the police in protecting the Croatian borders.

"Under the present law, the HV can help the police on request from the Ministry of the Interior and after we receive an order to provide support," Hranj said, adding that the support can include providing logistics, food, transport and medical assistance. He said that about 2,500 soldiers could be engaged for that purpose.

Hranj noted, however, that it should be specified whether the military would be given police powers. "The military has no authority to deal with civilians in peacetime. That is the exclusive responsibility and authority of the police," he said.

Krstičević said that cooperation with President Milanovic was good. He said that he agreed with Milanovic's view, expressed during his election campaign, that Croatia should withdraw its troops from the peacekeeping missing in Afghanistan.

"I'm also in favour of pulling out of Afghanistan, of course, in dialogue with our partners and allies," Krstičević said. He and Hranj had visited the country in December.

"We are following the situation, which is changing all the time. We also concluded then that we should withdraw the Croatian troops," Krstičević said, without specifying when that might happen.

"We should put all options on the table, analyse them and take a decision at the level of the state. I wouldn't want to speculate now," the defence minister said.

A new Croatian contingent leaves for Afghanistan on Friday, following a decision by Parliament and an order by the President of the Republic in his capacity as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.

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

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Migrant Issue Prompts Top Croatian Officials to Convene National Security Council

ZAGREB, March 3, 2020 - President Zoran Milanović said on Monday afternoon that he had agreed with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to soon convene a meeting of the National Security Council over the potential new migrant influx in the coming weeks.

However, Milanović said that he did not expect a huge tide of migrants soon, but the council would be convened "for the purpose of decision-making, if necessary."

"It may turn out to be unnecessary, however, who knows what can still happen," Milanović said during his visit to the Croat community in the Austrian city of Eisenstadt. Earlier in the day Milanović also visited Vienna for talks with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Von der Bellen.

Milanović, who served as Croatia's prime minister during the 2015 migrant crisis, added that this time nothing resembling those developments five years ago would occur again.

"Nevertheless, we must brace for (every scenario)," the Croatian president underscored.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that "millions" of migrants and refugees will soon head towards Europe, foreign media outlets have reported. Erdogan has been quoted as saying that Turkey could not cope with a new wave of refugees after an escalation of the Syrian conflict.

Milanovic also informed reporters that PM Plenković had telephoned him to say that he and Interior Minister Davor Božinović would soon fly to Greece to discuss the latest developments surrounding the migrant issue.

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

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Government Assures Tourist Industry Worried about Coronavirus and Migrants

ZAGREB, March 3, 2020 - The government takes into account the interests of the Croatian tourism industry and will take measures to mitigate any risks from a possible escalation of the coronavirus situation and the migrant crisis, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in the northern Adriatic resort town of Umag on Monday evening.

Speaking after meeting executives of several large hotel companies, Plenković said that he and Interior Minister Davor Božinović were travelling to Greece on Wednesday to learn first-hand about the situation on the land border between Greece and Turkey.

He said that the representatives of hotel companies had expressed their satisfaction with the way the government was handling the coronavirus situation, without creating panic that might adversely affect the economy and tourism in particular.

Plenković said that Croatia was dealing with the coronavirus situation and the migrant crisis both at the national and the European level. He said that Božinović would be chairing an extraordinary meeting of the EU Home Affairs Council in Brussels on Wednesday.

Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli said that hoteliers were rightfully concerned, but that things were still going according to plan and the tourism industry was still in the black.

"So far we have recorded a 5% rise in arrivals and a 2% rise in overnight stays. March will see some minuses, but there have been no major cancellations for now," Cappelli said, adding that the situation was under control for now. "70% of our tourists come by car and that's our advantage," he noted.

Croatian Tourism Association director Veljko Ostojić said that there was some concern but there was no reason for panic. "Certain smaller groups who were due to come in the early season are cancelling their visits, certain events and conferences are also being cancelled, but what is positive is that there have been no cancellations for the peak season, although booking is rather slow," he said.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Croatia Migrant Crisis: Interior Minister Will Not Send Army to Border

March 2, 2020 - Davor Božinović, the Interior Minister of Croatia, emphasised that there is no need to send the army to the border, because Croatia deals with illegal migrants daily. He added that Croatia’s border protection system maintains communication with colleagues from other countries on every level. And they are working together to pursue a diplomatic solution.


Croatia Eastern Border: No Increase in Illegal Migration

“There has been no reported increase in illegal migration on Croatia's eastern borders. The police are doing their job and the situation is no different than yesterday or the day before. Croatia has been dealing with illegal migration every day for almost three years now. That is why, even with these new circumstances, we can confirm that our border protection system fully operational and doing its job,” Interior Minister Davor Božinović said today. He noted that presently there is no need to send the army to the Croatian border, even though that remains a legal possibility, according to Marina Borovac/Večernji List on March 2, 2020.

“We will see how the situation on the Greek and Bulgarian borders develops, in relation to Turkey’s recent actions (release of migrants from their country). We are in close contact with our colleagues (from other countries) on every level. One direction we are going is certainly the diplomatic route. After all, the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Parliament will visit the Greek border tomorrow to see the situation there. At the same time, talks are underway with the Turkish leadership, which is part of the diplomatic role. The aim is to return to the EU-Turkey agreement of 2016,” Božinović added, and is confident that diplomacy would be the goal.


Croatia Will Discuss Border Assistance to Greece, Bulgaria

Božinović announced an upcoming meeting of European interior ministers to discuss what assistance can be sent to Greece and Bulgaria. He says both countries are committed to deterring illegal migration, which is in the wake of the new European Commission's policy regarding the protection of the EU's external borders. Božinović recalled that there was a migrant wave in 2015 because Greece had allowed migrants to pass through their territory.

“This is the only way to prevent the 2015 and 2016 scenario from happening again. Today, not only Greece, but every country has made their objectives very clear regarding the protection of their borders along the so-called Western Balkan route,” the interior minister concluded.

Croatia will emphasize its plight with protecting Europe's borders, but reiterates that the issue of the migrant crisis can only be resolved through (the agreement upon) a common European policy.

Follow our Politics page and this page to keep up-to-date on the migrant crisis along the Western Balkan route in Croatia.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Milanović: Most Migrants Won't Reach Europe

ZAGREB, March 2, 2020 - A very small number of migrants will manage to reach Europe, and tensions caused by this matter will decrease in the coming days, Croatian President Zoran Milanović said after meeting with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Van der Bellen in Vienna on Monday.

"It is precisely because of what we as Europe went through nearly five years ago and what has been done in the meantime that it is impossible for a refugee wave of that scope to occur again, it is simply physically impossible," Milanović said, referring to 2015 when over a million refugees had arrived in Europe from the Middle East.

"What we are seeing is a political struggle and manipulating with people," he said and added: "I dare predict that a very small number of people will manage to break through the barriers" and "tensions will calm down within a few days."

Milanovic said that in 2015, when he was prime minister, "certain lessons had to be learnt", and that today it was simply not true that migrants currently staying in Turkey were in danger. He noted that the rules of international humanitarian law needed to be respected.

Van der Bellen said that the border countries such as Greece and Bulgaria should not be left in the lurch in that regard, adding that he did not know what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan actually wanted to achieve by opening the border to Europe for migrants.

Erdogan said in Ankara on Monday that European leaders were now calling him to discuss closing the border, but that it was too late for that now and that the path to Europe would remain open.

"There will be talks with Turkey to see what they actually want," the Austrian president said, adding that Europe would continue to face the problem of illegal migration as long as the situation in Syria does not change.

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

Monday, 2 March 2020

Croatia Prepared for Possible Migrant Wave

ZAGREB, March 2, 2020 - The head of the national civil protection authority, Damir Trut, said on Sunday the border police were prepared for a possible migrant wave after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan allowed migrants to head for the European Union.

Trut was commenting for the press on Erdogan's opening of Turkey's borders for migrants to cross into Europe and its possible impact on the spread of coronavirus in Croatia.

"The border police have plans for all activities and are prepared. Not one situation can take them by surprise. All the recommendations the Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ) made concerning border crossing and border checks are being respected," Trut said.

HZJZ head Krunoslav Capak recalled the 2015 migrant crisis, saying that after several thousand migrants had entered Croatia, "the migrant wave was put under control."

"We then prepared epidemiological instructions for all the key care providers for migrants," he added.

In a statement carried by the public broadcaster, Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said EU interior ministers would likely meet next week.

Earlier today, European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, the chief European official in charge of the migration issue, asked Croatia to convene an urgent meeting of EU interior ministers after Turkey said it had allowed over 75,000 migrants to cross its border and head for the EU.

About 6,500 border police are deployed along our border and we don't expect the migrants will enter Croatia, said Capak. Croatia will be prepared if that happens, he added.

Erdogan has said he let the migrants out of Turkey after dozens of his soldiers were killed in air strikes in northern Syria.

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency said today it was sending reinforcements to the Greek-Turkish border and that it was on high alert.

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

Sunday, 1 March 2020

Schinas Asks Croatia to Urgently Convene EU Meeting on Migrants

ZAGREB, March 1, 2020 - European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, the chief European official in charge of the migration issue, asked Croatia on Sunday to convene an urgent meeting of EU interior ministers after Turkey opened its borders for migrants who want to reach Europe.

In a post on Twitter, Schinas said he contacted Croatian Interior Minister Davor Božinović "to request that EU Home Affairs Ministers meet urgently in an extraordinary JHA Council."

Croatia is currently presiding the Council of the European Union.

Schinas added that he was in ongoing consultations with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

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

Sunday, 1 March 2020

Croatia Prepared for New Migrant Wave, Says Interior Minister

ZAGREB, March 1, 2020 - Interior Minister Davor Božinović said on Saturday Croatia was prepared for a potential new migrant wave and that for now there was no increase in arrivals on the Western Balkan route.

"For several years now, Croatia has had a plan for the situation we are faced with and for a situation we could be faced with," he told reporters, adding that "at this moment there are no visible increases on the route called Eastern Mediterranean or Western Balkan" and that "there's no worry" about Croatia's preparedness.

Croatian police efficaciously protect the border, Božinović said, adding that "perhaps, unlike in some other countries, such situations are no surprise for us because we are constantly fully operational."

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said today that Turkey had opened its borders and that 18,000 migrants were en route to Europe.

The EU relied on Turkey to stop the migrant flow after more than a million people arrived in Europe from the Middle East in 2015.

Božinović said he was in contact with European institutions and that the EU was acting in two directions.

"On the one hand, a diplomatic effort is being made to deescalate the situation in Idlib, while on the other hand humanitarian action is being taken with the approval of €60 million... to ensure accommodation, food and medical care for Syrians" in that Syrian province, he said.

Aid envisaged under the EU-Turkey agreement continues, he added.

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

Saturday, 29 February 2020

Police Rescue 12 Illegal Migrants in Glina Area

ZAGREB, February 29, 2020 - Police have rescued 12 illegal migrants held in the storage compartment of a camper van in the Glina area, about 80 kilometres south of Zagreb, Sisak-Moslavina County Police said in a statement on Friday.

They included three men, two women and seven children, who were all in bad shape and the police "probably saved their lives", the statement said.

They were all tired and exhausted and were immediately given medical attention. They were found in a camper van bearing Polish licence plates during a police check on Sunday February 23 in the village of Prekopa near Glina.

The migrants, all Iraqi nationals, are two families who entered the country illegally and have announced that they will apply for international protection. Five members of one family have been accommodated at the reception centre for asylum seekers in Kutina, while seven members of the other family have been put up in a similar facility in Zagreb.

The van's driver, a 36-year-old Pole and his 34-year-old female companion were arrested for illegally entering the country and were placed in police custody.

Last Friday, near the village of Mlaka in Jasenovac municipality, about 100 kilometres southeast of Zagreb, 19 Iraqi nationals, including five men, six women and eight children, were caught after illegally crossing the border from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Those in poor condition were taken by ambulance to hospital in Pakrac and Sisak. They all said they would formally apply for international protection, and after being discharged from hospital, they have been accommodated in the reception centre for asylum seers in Zagreb.

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

Friday, 28 February 2020

Croatian, Hungarian Ministers Discuss Fight Against Illegal Migration

ZAGREB, February 28, 2020 - Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman met with his Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto in Budapest on Friday and they agreed on the need to fight for a new common asylum policy and against illegal migration.

"It's necessary to fight for a new common asylum policy and against illegal migration and smuggling," Grlić Radman said. "It's necessary to distinguish between refugees, where we are bound by the Geneva Convention, and illegal migration, on which some smuggling rings are making a lot of money."

Budapest and Zagreb share the same views also on EU enlargement and the EU's ambitious Multiannual Financial Framework, Grlić Radman said.

He reiterated that Zagreb and Budapest had "centuries of uninterrupted ties" and excellent relations, that the two peoples were "well-connected" and that, in the European context, the two countries were an example of a good solution concerning minority communities.

The two ministers also talked about Croatia's current presidency of the European Union. Grlić Radman recalled that in 2011, when Hungary chaired the EU, it helped Croatia a lot. "Thanks to Hungary, we completed the negotiations and became an EU member within two years."

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

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