Croatian president Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic | Photo: EPA/MALTON DIBRA
Croatian president Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic | Photo: EPA/MALTON DIBRA

The issue of migrants was at the center of a meeting between the presidents of Croatia, Slovenia and Austria. Croatia said that it has been successfully protecting EU borders, but did not address reports of police abuse of migrants.

At the press conference following the meeting Croatian president Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic said that Croatian police are "protecting" the border with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro "very well," noting that this is the longest external border of the EU. 

The meeting was held on Wednesday in Sibenik, Croatia, on the Adriatic coast. The focus of the conference was  migration on the Balkan route and the question of whether/when Croatia can join the Schengen Zone.

Croatia ignores reports of police abuse 

Kitarovic did not address reports from international and local organizations that Croatian police are subjecting migrants to human rights abuses and violence.

"When Croatian borders become Schengen borders as well, they will be even better protected," she said. Croatia is currently a member of the European Union, but not of the Schengen Zone. This is an area encompassing almost all EU states where passport and border controls at their mutual borders are not carried out.

In July the European Commission said that it was in favor of Croatia joining the Schengen Zone. The final decision will be made by the European Council in the coming years. 

Austria says migration 'now under control' 

Slovenia implied that it might impose its veto on Croatia's entrance into the Schengen Zone unless Zagreb complies with international arbitration for the maritime border in the northern Adriatic Sea. 

"I am convinced that it will be much easier for the [Slovenian] government to back Croatia's entrance into the Schengen zone if [Croatia] were to respect the outcome of arbitration," Slovenian president Borut Pahor said. 

Austria president Alexander Van der Bellen said that "migration is basically under control compared with the situation in 2015." He also expressed the hope that the EU will try again to establish a common foreign policy. 

The Wednesday meeting was originally supposed to happen in May, but had been postponed due to a government crisis in Austria. 

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