FM says Croatia won't be refugee collection centre

Croatian Foreign Minister Miro Kovac said in Amsterdam on Friday that for Croatia the priority was not to become a refugee collection centre but remain a transit country, and that if host countries such as Germany and Austria closed their borders to refugees, Croatia would too.

Kovac was attending an informal meeting of European Union foreign ministers at which one of the main topics was the migration crisis.

"The priority for us is not to become a refugee collection centre but remain a transit country and to efficiently handle this transit. Interior Minister Vlaho Orepic already discussed cooperation with the neighbouring countries in the refugee crisis. We agreed with Slovenia, Austria, Serbia and Macedonia to jointly screen (refugees) on the border between Macedonia and Greece, thus contributing to a European solution to the refugee crisis," Kovac told reporters.

"Clearly, everything depends on the countries that accept the refugees, primarily Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Sweden. As long as they continue to accept refugees, Croatia will remain a transit country, but if they reduce the number of refugees they receive, that will lead to tighter border control. Borders may even be closed. In that case, we'll have a domino effect. If Slovenia closes its borders, Croatia will too, followed by Serbia and Macedonia. This is functioning for now and we in Croatia want things to be civilised... but we will clearly protect our territory."

Asked how the mending of relations with the neighbours was going, Kovac said some relations were being mended and some strengthened. "My first visit was to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), with which we want to strengthen our relations. I want to support its EU membership candidacy. We want the Croats in BiH, as a constituent people, to be satisfied together with the other nations, to be the engine of the EU integration process."

After BiH, Kovac visited Hungary, where he talked with Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto. "We agreed that we would communicate in a civilised, constructive manner, that there are many problems which we must solve together and that these problems would be solved gradually in the spirit of good neighbourly and friendly relations."

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic was also attending the Amsterdam meeting, and Kovac said they would talk. "We want good relations with all our neighbours, better than those we encountered when we won citizens' confidence and assumed responsibility for Croatia. It won't be easy, it won't happen overnight, but we have the good will and want our people in Croatia to be satisfied, to be able to live better and have better relations with the neighbours."

Kovac said he also talked with Slovenian Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec and that they agreed to arrange a meeting soon.

Last update: Fri, 05/02/2016 - 23:06

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