President says refugee crisis not only Croatia’s problem but Europe’s as well

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Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said after a session of the National Security Council (VNS) on Friday that the refugee wave hitting Croatia was not only Croatia’s problem but Europe’s as well because the refugees wanted to reach some other countries.

In a message to Croatian citizens after the VNS session that lasted slightly more than an hour, Grabar-Kitarovic said that the refugee crisis was going on and that a large number of people could be expected to continue arriving in the coming hours.

“We are working on taking appropriate measures, showing humanity to those people and the world. But we will be resolute as regards our right to national security and stability. This is not only our problem, it is the EU’s problem as well,” Grabar-Kitarovic said outside the parliament headquarters where the VNS session was held.

She warned that the number of people arriving at Croatia’s border was much higher than expected and expressed concern “about the way they will be in transit, particularly considering announcements by neighbouring countries”, asking that the problem be raised to the European level.

“Those are, after all, migrants who want to reach some other countries,” she said.

She underlined that the problem had to be dealt with in cooperation with partners from Europe because Croatia indeed was on the EU’s external border but could not be a “collection centre because it is unworthy of the migrants’ human dignity.”

“Croatia is an EU member, it is not part of the Schengen area. We have obligations but we also have the right to expect the EU to help us protect our border, which is the EU’s external border,” she stressed, adding that she would insist on that and talk about that with her European colleagues.

Grabar-Kitarovic said she believed that the pressure exerted by Croatia on the EU had resulted in Slovenia and Hungary starting to let refugees coming from Croatia pass through their territory and transporting them by bus to the border with Austria.

She agreed with Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic’s assessment that the European common asylum policy no longer existed, underlining that it was not an official decision at the moment but she believed a decision to that effect would be
made.

The president requested at the VNS session that the government define measures to be taken in case a larger number of refugees not in transit to other countries decided to stay in Croatia.

She would not comment on the government’s Plan B for dealing with the current refugee situation, saying that she would see how it was functioning on the ground.

After she opens the Vinkovci Autumn festival in that eastern Croatian city on Friday evening, President Grabar-Kitarovic will hold a working meeting with refugee task forces in Vukovar-Srijem and Osijek-Baranja counties.

(Hina)

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