PM Milanovic says gov't has refugee crisis under control

Photo /Vijesti/2015/listopad/19 listopada/ZM-sabor.jpg

Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said on Monday that the government was keeping the refugee crisis under control regardless of the slower pace of reception of migrants in Slovenia and Austria, adding that it was doing its best so that the crisis did not affect normal living in Croatia.

We have been doing and will continue doing what is necessary to keep our citizens calm and safe and their daily routine unaffected," he told reporters in the parliament building where he submitted slates of the "Croatia Is Growing" coalition to the State Election Commission (DIP). 

He dismissed claims that the refugee crisis was obviously escalating and that some of the refugees would stay in Croatia.

"That is not obvious in any way, quite the contrary, those people will continue their journey. It is obvious that a lot of people cross over from Turkey to Greece. Greece is a member of the EU and the Schengen area (of passport-free travel) and it is obviously not functioning. The people obviously arrive from Greek islands to mainland Greece and obviously cross over to Macedonia and then travel through Serbia without any control along the Morava River valley. It is obvious that they are charged (money) along that route and it is obvious that they head west and enter Croatia. What is also obvious is that we kept 5,000-6,000 people on the other side of the border, in Serbia, yesterday and it is equally obvious that that is not a solution," he said.

He said that Croatia would send migrants and refugees on to Slovenia and that they would continue passing through Croatia until the problem was solved in Greece and Turkey.

Milanovic dismissed claims by Slovenia's minister of the interior (Vesna Gjerkes Znidar) that Croatia was not communicating with Slovenia and not complying with EU rules. "It's a bit difficult on the first day. Slovenia is now next in the line. I talked with the Slovenian PM two times today and five times yesterday so I'm not sure if the minister is in contact with her prime minister," Milanovic said.

He reiterated that Slovenia was an organised state and that arrangements had been made by the two countries earlier. "I said on the first day of this situation and I will repeat it now - Croatia will not be a hot spot, it will not - spontaneously or in line with an agreement between other countries - keep more people than it can take in," he said.

"... Unlike Budapest, Slovenia is acting in a much more acceptable way... but it will have to understand that (refugees and migrants) will have to stay a while in Slovenia. Until the problem is solved in Greece and Turkey, this will continue. The only way to stop it is to put a physical barrier, a wall... For the time being, we are not doing it and neither are Slovenians, Austrians and Germans," Milanovic said.

Asked about the statement by the President's advisor on migrants, Mate Granic, that Croatia should close its green border, Milanovic said only that he was not aware that Granic was President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic's advisor and did not know in what capacity he had made the statement.

The PM said that he was not concerned about statements that Austria would receive a maximum 1,500 people daily. "People are arriving in Austria. It is not a question of whether you want it or not. Until you put a fence on the border. The number of people Austria receives is the number of people who cross its border. Isn't that obvious after a month and a half? When Austria starts building a fence of some kind, we will see it right away," he said.

He underlined that he was aware that Austria was probably bearing the brunt of the refugee crisis and that "nobody is even thinking about criticising it", adding that German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Ankara on Sunday. "You have seen how the situation is about to develop. The country that is most threatened is Germany, and it is most actively and with greatest authority working on finding a solution."

Milanovic added that Croatia would continue acting as it had been so far and noted that Slovenia, which had only started receiving refugees, "will realise that it has to take in those people and send them further on because otherwise they will start arriving in an uncontrolled way."

He reiterated that putting a fence on the green border was the last solution for Croatia and that he considered it "ugly and bad."

"I clearly asked that question before the European Council... do you want Croatia to do it? And I was looking at (representatives of) Sweden, Germany and Austria and they said 'No'. You have seen what the German government has told Hungarians, that they are just aggravating the situation. It is as clear a message as can be to Budapest and its friends and stooges in Croatia, on how the biggest and most humane world power thinks. Of course, statesmanship is a burden, it's not easy. Being a petty local rabble-rouser is easy, as is to tell fairy tales about Christianity and Islam, but it's a bit more difficult when you have a situation that needs to be managed."

Milanovic also dismissed proposals to deploy the army on the border. "Such statements are very irresponsible. You cannot send a guard brigade (to the border). Guard brigades serve to destroy the enemy... Those are young men... formally active reservists. Let's have them leave their jobs, put on rubber boots and drive away migrants with carpet-beaters! That's impossible and that is why statements by people taking part in the election campaign are utterly irresponsible. Don't do that, the government has absolutely everything under control," said Milanovic.

Text and photo: Hina