All countries along the Balkan refugee route must agree on how many refugees they can let across their borders and avoid incidents that could harm security and their relations, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and her Slovenian counterpart Borut Pahor agreed in Zagreb on Thursday.
Slovenia on Wednesday started putting up a fence along its border with Croatia fearing that Croatia might again let refugees cross into Slovenia over the green border. A dispute arose between the two countries because a section of the fence was erected on Croatian territory.
The refugee intake should be organised in such a way to avoid jeopardising the two countries’ and their neighbours’ security, Pahor said at a joint news conference with Grabar-Kitarovic.
Grabar-Kitarovic added that Croatia and Slovenia were fully agreed not to allow any incidents that could harm their relations.
“Any move must be discussed openly, primarily by the governments and ministries.”
The two presidents did not comment on the fence on Slovenia’s border and questions from the press were not allowed.
Pahor claims that Slovenia’s conduct has to do “only with better management of the refugee crisis” and has been prompted by a slower refugee intake on the border with Austria. “That has made the Slovenian authorities regulate the intake on the Slovenian-Croatian border in roughly the same way, and the Croatian authorities to do so on the border with Serbia,” said Pahor.
He added that a successful and humane solution to the refugee crisis required an agreement between all countries along the Balkan refugee route whose leaders will meet in Zagreb in late November for a summit of the Brdo-Brijuni Process, which brings together former Yugoslav countries and Albania.
“All leaders must understand that we must deal with it together and not at one another’s expense… We have to do it for the sake of the refugees, our citizens and regional security,” said Pahor.
The summit of the Brdo-Brijuni forum on November 25, to be attended by US Vice President Joe Biden, is expected to contribute to closer ties between the region and the West and step up the integration of Southeast European countries with the EU and NATO. The US Vice President is the highest US official to visit Croatia since Barack Obama took up office as President of the United States. Invited to the conference are also German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and European Council President Donald Tusk.
“The presence of Mr Biden and other leaders and partners shows that the future of this region is decided here and not somewhere else, talks are held with us and not about us,” Grabar-Kitarovic said.
“Croatia and Slovenia have a leading role in that,” she added.
Pahor believes that the Zagreb summit is a “top political event” whose importance goes beyond Southeast Europe. “We want peace, security and agreement on problems so as to avoid incidents that could affect the pro-European orientation of the region.”
Sources at President Grabar-Kitarovic’s office said the summit was aimed at bringing Croatia’s neighbourhood closer to the West and bringing back the US on the regional scene after its crucial role in putting an end to the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995.