The Croatian police are fully capable of monitoring the Croatian border and they do not need additional assistance from the European border agency Frontex, which should instead be deployed along the first external borders of the EU, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said in Salzburg on Wednesday.
“Our cooperation with Frontex is excellent, you know that a Frontex aircraft is monitoring the whole of southeast Europe from (the Croatian coastal city of) Zadar. As far as Frontex forces which are supposed to be deployed in the southeast Europe, we think they should instead be directed to the EU’s external borders, to assist those countries where permeability is greater. Our borders are very strong and we’re doing a quality job and I don’t think the Croatian police need extra help,” he said.
European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex, headquartered in Warsaw, controls the borders of the European Schengen area, coordinating with the border and coast guards of Schengen member states. Croatia is not a member of the passport-free travel area, while its eastern borders with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro form the EU’s longest external border.
Plenkovic is in Salzburg attending a summit of the European People’s Party (EPP), a meeting between EU heads of state and government and opposition leaders from EPP and President of the European Council Donald Tusk, President of the European Commission (EC) Jean-Claude Juncker, and President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani.
The main topics of the summit are the issues of migrations and Brexit.
The EC has recently suggested that Frontex forces be significantly strengthened, increasing the personnel from the existing 1,500 to 10,000 by 2020, which would effectively turn the border agency into European border and coast guard. Frontex members would be granted authority to perform tasks such as identity checks, granting or refusing entry at EU’s external borders, and intercepting people at the borders.
Southern EU members are sceptical of the suggestion, fearing it may interfere with the states’ rights to control their own borders.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in an interview for the Austrian daily Der Standard on Wednesday that Italy, Greece, and Spain were against the idea to turn the European border agency into forces which would be deployed along EU borders.
“Several member states are sceptical of the idea to extend the authority of the European border protection agency. They will need to be convinced,” Kurz had said.
Plenkovic said the EU must turn to the source of the problem in order to solve it.
“That is the only solution sustainable in the long term,” he said, adding that a comprehensive approach to the issue of migrations includes a stronger external border, which, for those countries along the eastern Mediterranean route, means honouring the EU deal with Turkey, strengthening the borders between Greece and Turkey, as well as Greece and Macedonia, from where illegal migrants move towards Croatia across Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“We are strengthening our capacities, 6.5 thousand police officers are guarding the Croatian border and contributing to the efforts. As far as the obligations we have undertaken in regards to relocation of refugees, we stand by them without a doubt. We regularly pay our share and the fifth tranche to Turkey is underway, leaving one more, which all amounts to nearly €6 million, a decent sum for a country the size of Croatia. I think we have proven to be constructive and serious as well in regards to secondary migrations within the EU,” he said.
The EU-Turkey agreement was signed in March 2016 in an attempt to stem the tide of migrants entering Europe. Under the deal, Ankara would take in the migrants in exchange for €6 billion in aid from the EU.