European Union tells Croatia to lift border blockade with Serbia

Zagreb accuses Belgrade of intentionally diverting the unprecedented influx of asylum seekers towards Croatian borders.


European Union leaders agreed at an emergency refugee summit early Thursday to boost aid for Syria’s neighbours, which are housing millions of refugees fleeing years of civil war and the ravages of Islamic State extremists.

Croatia said reports that individual Serbian citizens had also been barred from entering Croatia were incorrect, saying there had only been “a problem with passports”.

Scores of refugees have queued to enter Opatovac, where they are registered, given food and basic medical help and put on buses to Croatia’s border with Hungary; there, they change vehicles and continue to Austria – a route that bypasses Hungary’s costly fence on the Serbian border, enraging Orban and his allies.

Hungary backed off efforts to erect razor-wire barriers on the border with Slovenia, however, which would violate Schengen rules.

The shutdown of the Hungarian-Serbian border had set off a domino effect throughout southeastern Europe. The remaining 330 km (205 mi) runs roughly along the Drava river, which is hard to cross.

This week Belgrade closed the main Bajakovo-Batrovci crossing – the last one still open – to all trucks with Croatian plates, while Croatia closed the crossing to trucks and cars with Serbian plates.

The migrant crisis is becoming part of Poland’s fall election campaign. He said the meeting “shows we have to talk to each other“.

Vucic said “the decision of Croatian government is good”.

Countries needed to unite behind a global approach, he said, suggesting that the onus was on the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to stop the war. “There are people who claim to come from Syria but don’t speak a word of Arabic”.

He said Hungary would make a decision about sealing off its border with Croatia only after consultations to gather support for the move. Hungary is the most direct way to reach Western Europe.

“We will not respond to this, because I simply do not know how to respond to that and stay an honest and normal person”.

Faymann, in separate comments to reporters, described relations with Hungary as “correct” but also said there was “tension”, the Austria Press Agency reported.

Meanwhile, Austria’s conservative vice chancellor called for better sharing of information on the arrival of migrants at the Austrian border.

“It’s an estimate based on the observations of officials on the ground, especially the federal police, the office for migration and refugees and [EU border protection agency] Frontex”, said a German interior ministry spokesman.

Faymann and other Austrian officials have been very critical of Hungary’s border fences, damaging bilateral relations.

The country’s border with Croatia is only 22-kilometres (14 miles) long, also mountainous and not easy to cross.

Top aide says government may let migrants arriving from Croatia pass through its territory. But people keep coming, and nerves are frayed.

Its closure of the crossing – prompted by the migrant influx – had raised tensions between the two countries.

Ahead of his visit, Hahn has praised “Serbia’s competent and resilient management of the refugee crisis“.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive, has proposed a 1.8 billion euro trust fund for Africa which would be financed by available money in the EU budget as well as voluntary contributions from national governments.

Croatia has said it was overwhelmed and has accused Serbia of sending the migrants in its direction.


European Union interiors ministers recently pushed through a deal to relocate 120,000 refugees amid fierce opposition from central and eastern states.

Migrants walk on a field after they crossed the border with Serbia near Tovarnik Croatia