makedonija, granica, ograda.jpg
Photograph: EPA/NAKE BATEV

Croatia supports the idea of stepping up controls on the Greece-Macedonia border if Greece is unable to control its border with Turkey, but that requires the consent of all EU member states, Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Miro Kovac said on Saturday.

"We will be in favour of stepping up controls on the border between Macedonia and Greece. Our prime minister has accepted the idea put forward by Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar and we need further cooperation in that regard," Kovac said after an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Amsterdam, which focused on the refugee crisis.

On Saturday the EU ministers were joined by their colleagues from countries aspiring to join the EU.

The present solution, in which Croatia remains a transit country for refugees, will function as long as large host countries, notably Germany, accept refugees, Kovac said. "We need a European approach, a European solution, and we in the European Union should think carefully how we will treat the migration phenomenon in the future, how many migrants the EU can take in and where they would be. What is important for Croatia is that it is a transit country and functioning as such. I already said yesterday that Croatia would not be a collection centre."

As for tightening controls on the Macedonian-Greek border, Kovac said that Croatia supported this idea, but noted that it required the consent of all the member states. "That must be a Europe-wide solution, we all must accept it, because it is not enough if only Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary want that.  All of us in the European Union should support that and only then will such a decision make sense. That can be an acceptable alternative if Greece is unable to control its borders."

Asked about the risk of refugees heading towards Albania, Montenegro and Croatia in efforts to reach northern Europe in the event that the Macedonia-Greece border was closed, Kovac said that such a scenario was unlikely.

"For now we don't see that as a realistic scenario. Police cooperation is functioning well. If we were to protect the external borders now, which in this case would be the border between Macedonia and Greece, it would not be only Croatian police that would be guarding that border, but police from other European countries as well, which would be a viable approach in the long term," he said.

During the two-day informal meeting, Kovac had bilateral talks with his counterparts from the United Kingdom, Germany, Slovenia and Serbia.

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