Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said in an interview which the Euronews television news network broadcast on Friday that he believed that Slovenia would not block Croatia's accession to the passport-free Schengen Area over to their border dispute, adding that the dispute was irrelevant in that context.
"First of all the border dispute between Croatia and Slovenia is an open issue that we have on the agenda for the last 30 years. Had this been a condition for any of the two countries to join the EU or to join the Schengen, then Slovenia would not have entered either, in either of the two inner cycles."
"Our firm belief is that Schengen membership for Croatia should be completely separated from a bilateral border issue between the two countries. For us it is the Savudrija Bay, for them, it is the Piran Bay. At the end of the day, we can find a solution," Plenkovic said in his response to the reporter's question whether due to "the open dispute with Slovenia over the Gulf of Piran" the Slovenian side might even veto Croatia's way to the Schengen Zone if there is no solution.
Plenkovic expressed confidence that the two countries can find a solution.
"What we are saying to our Slovenian neighbours is 'we have an open issue, there are ways to solve it, peaceful ways, good neighbourly relations and a solution that can be acceptable for both sides, unrelated with our Schengen ambitions."
Upon the reporter's remark that Croatia recently got a green light from the European Commission for the Schengen Zone and that the decision came "as a surprise to many because lately, Europe seems to be closing in rather than opening up," the premier said that "first of all, the decision of the college of the European Commission, of Jean-Claude Juncker’s Commission in Strasbourg last week is actually a fruit of four years hard work by Croatia, by fulfilling the criteria which are structured in eight different chapters of the so-called Schengen acquis."
"In every (all) of these chapters, we have managed to elevate the readiness of Croatia to be part of Schengen. So this was a very thorough technical evaluation by the Commission services."
In response to the reporter's comment that Croatia has a long coastline, including 1,300 kilometres of border with non-EU countries which prompted her to ask Plenkovic if Croatia considered any special measures to protect its borders, he answered: "Not only considered, but we have put them in place."
"Croatia has very much invested in the capabilities of our police force. We have 6,500 police officers fully trained and equipped to guard the external EU border, which is the Schengen border. We have not opted either for walls or barricades or barb wires, unlike some other countries, because we felt first of all that the relationship that we have with Bosnia- Herzegovina, in particular, was not the adequate way to guard the border. So we are cooperating between the police services of Croatia, of Bosnia- Herzegovina, of Croatia and Serbian Croatian Montenegro."
Plenkovic also dismissed accusations leveled by some NGOs say about "police violence against immigrants".
The premier says: "We have always respected the Croatian law, we have respected the highest standards, but we are also protecting our border. Any allegation that we have heard, it has been investigated. So far when it comes to the behavior of our policemen we can only praise their efforts for guarding not only the Croatian border but also guarding the border of all the other EU member states which are behind us."