MEPs must be allowed to examine situation at Croatian-Bosnian border

01/02/2021

PES Migration and Integration Network

Pictured from left: PD MEPs Pietro Bartolo, Brando Benifei, Alessandra Moretti and Pierfrancesco Majorino are blocked by armed Croatian police near the Croatian-Bosnian border. Picture: Brando Benifei.

The PES condemns attempts by Croatian authorities to obstruct Socialist and Democratic MEPs from determining whether reports of inhumane conditions for migrants at the Croatian-Bosnian border are true. The PES finds this to be a very serious incident – European lawmakers must not be impeded in their official duties.

MEPs Brando Benifei, Pietro Bartolo, Pierfrancesco Majorino, and Alessandra Moretti tried to inspect the situation with the migrants on the Croatian-Bosnian border near Bojna but were prevented from reaching the location by armed Croatian police.

PES President Sergei Stanishev said:

“The fact that armed police were waiting ready to intercept MEPs speaks for itself. This is a very serious incident which brings into questions the judgement of Croatian authorities. My four colleagues from Partito Democratico were simply trying to reach the border to see the conditions on the ground. There have been many worrying reports about the situation in the area and the European Parlament has to right to check what is happening. We expect Croatian authorities, and all EU authorities, to act reasonably in the spirit of openness and accountability.”

MEP Brando Benifei said:

"It is our duty as elected Members of the European Parliament to watch over the respect of human rights, but also to make sure that the Union’s policies are fit to the challenges of the present. What we have witnessed at the border with Bosnia Herzegovina shows that the resources to cope with the situation are insufficient, but also that the Dublin system is outdated and it does not work. It is clear that we need reform now. Migration and a new agenda on the respect of human rights should be put on top of the EU priorities.

“It is possible, necessary and urgent to shape a migration and integration system in Europe that prevents humanitarian crises of this kind from happening again, a system that does not create a downwards competition amongst the most vulnerable groups within society. This is what fuels xenophobia, hatred and resentment against these people - the hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers we met in Lipa and other thousands in the area- who find themselves in extreme conditions and despair."

Leader of the SDP, the PES member party form Croatia, Peđa Grbin said:

“Croatia must insist on the dialogue with the European Union on the situation at the Croatian border, but not by preventing the EP delegation from performing their tasks. We demand an explanation on this situation from the Minister of Interior Davor Božinović, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlić Radman, and the Prime Minister Andrej Plenković. Is this the proclaimed European policy of the Croatian Democratic Union, wholeheartedly pledged to Andrej Plenković?"

Prior to their mission, MEPs Benifei, Bartolo, Majorino, and Moretti received assurances from the Croatian ambassador in Rome that they could visit the Croatian-Bosnian border. Despite the words of the diplomat a few hundred meters before the border the MEPs were intercepted by armed Croatian police forces and asked to go back.

European Parliament President David Sassoli also expressed astonishment at the situation and called for reasonable, friendly, cooperation by Croatian authorities.