Croatia is prepared to respond to any possible recurrence of the refugee crisis, and even though it does not expect a crisis of the scope like last year, Zagreb will be prepared to once again cooperate with neighbours, Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Miro Kovac said in Bratislava on Friday, adding that he expected that the agreement with Turkey that stopped the refugee tide would continue to be implemented.
"Croatia is prepared for a situation like last year when refugees passed through Croatia in large numbers. If that were to occur, which we don't expect, we will be prepared. We will once again cooperate with our neighbours. We have already shown that. We were efficient and humane," Kovac told reporters upon arriving to a two-day informal meeting of European Union foreign ministers in the Slovak capital.
While Minister Kovac doesn't expect a recurrence of the refugee wave, Slovenia and Hungary are sending statements about a possibility of large-scale migrant arrivals.
Slovenia will resort to "extreme measures" to prevent uncontrolled arrivals of migrants in case the Balkan migration route is revived in the autumn, Interior Minister Vesna Gjerkes Znidar warned at a press conference in Ljubljana after a government meeting on Thursday. The Slovenian government held its first meeting after the summer recess to discuss the fears of reopening of the Balkan migration route if the EU-Turkey agreement on holding refugees in camps in Turkey failed.
"The situation with migrants is currently peaceful, but I fear this is only a seeming lull," Znidar said. She warned that the European Union still did not have a common migration policy and that it was not clear whether the agreement with Turkey would function.
Hungary recently announced that it was determined to build a new fence due to fear of the Turkey agreement not being fulfilled.
Pursuant to the agreement,Turkey undertakes to retain refugees in exchange for its EU accession negotiations being stepped up, for financial aid to care for refugees and in exchange that the EU would do away with visas for Turkish citizens.
"Turkey is an important partner in suppressing the migrant tide and we believe that we will continue to cooperate successfully and manage to suppress the migrant wave," Kovac said ahead of the meeting which is to discuss relations between the EU and Turkey and that talks would continue on Saturday with Turkish Minister for European Affairs, Omer Celik.
When it comes to Turkey's path toward the European Union, where some European politicians have said that the negotiations should be halted, Kovac believes that Turkey "needs to meet all the criteria, all benchmarks in order to earn liberalisation of the visa regime." "We support Turkey as a country that wishes to access the EU," Kovac said.
Serbia too has to fulfil criteria, Kovac said.
On Saturday, foreign ministers from the EU candidate countries, including Serbia, will join their EU members' counterparts in Bratislava.
"Serbia has received a response to the letter it sent to the EU and European Commission. Now it is important for Serbia to defuse tension and to stop with unnecessary diplomatic activities such as sending letters around. It needs to get down to work. Serbia is a candidate country. It wants to join the EU and criteria exist for that and negotiation chapters," he said.
Kovac said that Croatia wants Serbia to start executing its obligations, particularly with regard to Chapter 23.