Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic said on Friday that Croatia could provide for 3,200 migrants and refugees, although it would have to do so for 550 people, and that the issue of quotas remained very questionable at the level of European Union member states.
“Croatia would be capable of providing for 3,200 refugees but this figure isn’t correct… The number that has been decided on is 550 and everything else at this moment, regardless of the speech European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will hold, is very questionable at the level of the member states,” Pusic told reporters after the first part of an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers.
She said “many member states have, here already, expressed dissatisfaction with the Commission defining quotas in any way.”
With regard to the refugee crisis, she said Croatia “has quite a high degree of understanding, given the experience with refugees which Croatia had and which people in Croatia had.” She added that Zagreb had a plan in case refugees started heading for Croatia. “We have an inter-agency coordinating body at deputy level to provide for the number of people envisaged for Croatia for now, which we are upgrading with measures that would be necessary if a larger number of people arrived.”
Speaking of the refugee crisis, Pusic said, “There’s another problem, which is that most refugees and asylum-seekers don’t wish to stay in most member states. They don’t wish to stay in Hungary or Slovakia. They wish to go to Germany, Sweden, the Scandinavian countries.”
Pusic said it was necessary to create conditions which would make them wish to stay. “You can’t impose asylum. Therefore, big discussions will be held before those (quotas), so it’s important, before a decision is made, which will take a lot of time, to provide for the people where they are.”
Pusic said this was a refugee, not a migrant crisis in Europe because these were not people migrating out of choice, as most were fleeing to save their lives. “Most are fleeing areas with intense war conflicts,” she said, adding that the second part of today’s meeting would be attended by the foreign ministers of EU accession candidate states, primarily those hit by the crisis – Turkey, Macedonia and Serbia.
“Croatia is suggesting that those countries should be the focus of expert assistance in the processing of refugees as well as in financial and humanitarian aid, to try and provide for the people,” Pusic said.
In the first part of today’s meeting, the ministers discussed the relations with Russia and the Eastern Partnership countries, which have taken a back seat compared to half a year ago, because of the situation in the Mediterranean and the refugees coming from southern Europe, Pusic said.
“However, all ministers agreed that one should pay more attention to the relations with the eastern partners and perhaps find new models of relations with Russia given that the EU and Russia are partners, for example, in dealing with the Iranian crisis and in reaching the agreement with Iran,” she said, adding that the two sides “must be partners in dealing with the situation in the southern Mediterranean.”
“On the other hand, in Ukraine and some other Eastern Partnership countries, the EU and Russia are partners in the conflict. They are on opposite sides and the communication is quite intense between some member states and the Russian Federation, but no so much between the European Union,” Pusic said.