Balkan Times

Croatia Slams MEPs’ Visit to Bosnia Border as Provocation

Croatia’s Interior Minister, Davor Bozinovic, condemned a failed visit by a group of Italian MEPs to the Croatia-Bosnia border as having “the obvious intention to damage Croatia’s reputation”.

He spoke out after the MEPs and accompanied reporters tried to reach the Croatian border with Bosnia and Herzegovina to check allegations that Croatian police routinely mistreat migrants and refugees trying to enter the EU member state.

The delegation was thwarted in its mission by Croatian police officers.

“This is another in a series of provocations related to the actions of the Croatian police in fulfilling their tasks, and that is the protection of the state border,” Bozinovic told the media on Sunday.

The Italian media outlet Avvenire reported on Saturday that four MEPs, Pietro Bartolo, Alessandra Moretti, Pierfrancesco Majorino and Brando Benefei, tried to reach the border area, where human rights groups have reported physical abuse of migrants and refugees at the hands of Croatia’s police. But it said that Croatian police had prevented them from reaching their goal.

“The police probably have something to hide: if we have been treated like this, imagine how migrants and potential asylum seekers could be treated,” the MEPs told Avvenire.

The Italian President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, expressed “astonishment” after the incident.

“We always hope for friendly cooperation. We call for their requests to be met,” Sassoli wrote on Twitter.

Croatia’s main opposition Social Democratic Party also “condemned the prevention of a delegation of MEPs from reaching the border”.

The head of Croatian border police service, Zoran Niceno, said on Sunday that the Italian delegation had announced their arrival as well as their plan to cross the state border, but added that the Croatian authorities warned them that the border could be crossed only at official border crossings.

Niceno added that the police had prevented the visitors from committing two offences – “possible illegal border crossing and assisting in illegal border crossing”, because at that time a movement of migrants had been recorded on the other side of the border, in Bosnia.

Minister Bozinovic stated that Croatia “guards the EU’s longest land border in accordance with the law“, and that no one can “enter Croatia where entry is not allowed“. He criticised the opposition’s reaction as well.

“They are defending MEPs who wanted to avoid [respecting] Croatian law. They were told in advance that they could not [cross the border] and now they are attacking us, and these local [politicinas] give them the right, but I can’t understand that,“ he said.

For some three years, human rights groups have documented police violence against migrants and refugees, but Zagreb denies being heavy-handed, sometimes suggesting that migrants have injured themselves, and criticizing media and human rights groups who report such violations.

In May last year, human rights organisations accused Croatia’s Interior Ministry of trying to discredit independent journalism after it dismissed media reports of police violence, including tagging migrants with paint.

source: balkaninsight.com

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