Grabar-Kitarovic says Macedonia deserves much stronger EU support

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said in Skopje on Tuesday that according to her information, the situation on the Macedonian-Greek border was worrying and that Skopje deserved "much stronger support" from the European Union.

Grabar-Kitarovic arrived in the Macedonian capital for a meeting with Slovenian President Borut Pahor and Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov.

"We discussed very thoroughly the migrant crisis too... I must say the situation is quite worrying from what we hear in the field. I think Macedonia deserves much stronger support and assistance from us member states of the European Union, notably regarding talks with Greece," Grabar-Kitarovic told the press.

She said one must talk with Greece about what to do so that migrant arrivals on the Macedonian border and the pressure on the border were not as disorganised as was the case now.  She said the conditions in Greek migrant camps such as the one in Idomeni were disastrous for migrants but that "security conditions are very poor" in the camps along the Macedonian border too.

"There is strong pressure to break through the border and revive the so-called western Balkan route... One should certainly bring order because of the migrants and because of the security forces guarding the border... Naturally, it's crucial how the European Union will act, what the policy will be, because for nearly every migrant the destination is Germany, the Schengen Area, then the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands."

Grabar-Kitarovic said that neither Croatia nor Macedonia were destinations for migrants. "We are potentially transit states. That's why the European Union has the responsibility to send very clear messages to the migrants as to what they can expect."

She said the situation in the field showed that 85-90 percent of them were men whose average age was 27, which she said was a potentially dangerous age also when it came to riots. "But, in all that, it's essential not to look at the migrants as terrorists. They are not, but one should be very careful so that potential terrorists don't infiltrate through the migrant flows and so that we don't actually do what we have been doing so far. We are actually endorsing human trafficking."

As for Greece's criticisms that Macedonia responded too roughly to migrant-related incidents, Grabar-Kitarovic said that judging by what she could see, "they are behaving very responsibly... Rubber bullets are not being used. Tear gas and water cannons have been used, but one is certainly seeing to it that no one gets hurt."

She said Greece must assume its share of the responsibility and bring order in the camps on its side of the border. "That's not only in the interest of Greek tourism but security and stability in Europe in general and, in the end, the migrants themselves, who deserve to be treated with dignity and who deserve to know what they can expect."

Grabar-Kitarovic said the trilateral meeting also discussed the situation in Macedonia and its early parliamentary election on June 5. She said she and Pahor wished to "encourage Macedonia's Euro-Atlantic integration process... Naturally, by meeting the requirements, with the state's political stability and all that needs to be done so that the state can become stable and make headway on the road to European Union and NATO membership."

On Wednesday, the three presidents will visit the Vinojug migrant transit centre in Gevgelija and meet with the Croatian and Slovenian police who are assisting Macedonian security forces in controlling the border.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49

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