[Glas Slavonije] Zovko: “We have to reinforce cooperation in combating human trafficking”
Glas Slavonije, 25 January 2020
Migrants and other migrants’ related issues will be one of the focus points of the Croatian Presidency over the EU Council. We asked the Croatian MEP from HDZ, Željana Zovko, what Croatia might do in this context to improve and stabilise the current situation and to safeguard the Union borders, including its own, from illegal migrants’ waves.
ŽZ: After the launch of the migrants’ crisis and opening of the Balkans Route in 2015, the European Parliament created the Western Balkans Strategy with the purpose of offering solutions in terms of strengthening security of the EU neighbouring countries, their institutions and the rule of law and taking responsibility for legal migration.
As a rapporteur for the IPA III financial instrument, I have been leading final negotiations, whereby I insist on a better insight in the aid provided to the Western Balkans countries for equipping their border and police services with the purpose of cutting the human trafficking chains. The Republic of Croatia, as the EU frontier state, is at the moment the most competent to come up with a solution to this extremely sensitive issue for space and stability of its neighbourhood. If it fails to do so, instability caused by migrants’ waves could directly jeopardise security of the Union itself. I also expect the European Parliament to offer a quality and comprehensive solution to the current situation.
FOR STABILE BIH
GS: Croatia has recently been blamed by other countries, including the neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, for mistreating the migrants. Is this justified or is it just sensationalistic “name-calling” coming from the certain circles of the Parliament?
ŽZ: Political parties of BiH failed to form the government such a long time after the elections having thus created vacuum in their own country and given start to shift of migrants from the towns to the very EU border. In a relevant debate in the Parliament I have invited them to assume responsibility for that. Those forces in the BiH Parliament that fiercely oppose anything Croatian in the government have made use of this extremely sensitive situation in humanitarian terms to pursue their own goals.
The international community reacted exerting a pressure and the government has finally been formed in Sarajevo, so that the situation may now stabilise and be resolved adequately. I used to be a refugee myself. Therefore, it makes me so sad to witness these attempts of earning points by using people in such a difficult phase of their life.
GS: Prime-minister Plenković strongly rejected a possibility of creating the so-called hotspots in Croatia and BiH. Where is a solution to a migrants’ crisis? Is it in safeguarding the border between Turkey and Greece, where the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Balkans route starts?
ŽZ: Prime-minister Plenković pointed out that neither Croatia nor BiH would become a hot-spot. To that end, he has been working on avoiding the barbed wire fence on the border between BiH and Croatia/EU which would actually separate the peoples who share the same nationality and heritage. Therefore, we have to find a solution for a peaceful and stable Bosnia and Herzegovina, which will be capable of stabilising the Republic of Croatia from the East. A good thing is that Bosnia and Herzegovina has recently adopted the Strategy of Combating Trafficking in Human Beings in BiH 2020-2023 that will help combatting human trafficking and additionally secure stability and better cooperation between institutions for combatting human trafficking. An adequate solution for migrants and migrations will be visible in assuming responsibility for legal migration and cutting the chain of illegal migration and human trafficking and putting an end to the corridor that poses a threat to security of all those countries. We have been looking for such a solution with Turkey, which is a great beneficiary of IPA funds and huge FRiT funds used for migrants’ care.
GS: Is the lack of funds one of the key causes of the migrants’ crises in the Western Balkans?
ŽZ: I don’t think so. I think we should rather place focus on efficient and transparent spending. That was what I advocated in the hearing with the Commission. We have to apply the lessons learnt from the past mistakes.
GS: May the police alone protect the Croatian border efficiently enough? Or should the military be introduced as well, particularly on the border with BiH?
ŽZ: I am proud of the high-level professionalism and responsibility of the Croatian police that proved to be consistent in performance of its duty. Therefore, there is absolutely no need do deploy the Croatian Army. Competence of the Croatian police was confirmed by the relevant European bodies and by the Committee that issued a recommendation to the Commission to admit Croatia to the Schengen zone.