The razor-wire fence on the Croatian-Slovenian border is an impassable barrier to migrating wild animals and by putting up the fence, Slovenia is violating European regulations on the conservation of natural habitats and protection of the environment, Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic warned the European Commission on Thursday.
In a letter to EC Vice President Frans Timmermans, Pusic called on the EC to act in line with its duties as the guardian of the EU Treaties and immediately take action to see to it that the right to nature protection was exercised.
The razor-wire fence that is being put along the Croatian-Slovenian border is an impassable barrier to migrating wild animal species in one of the best preserved corners of Europe, the Foreign Ministry quoted Minister Pusic as saying in the letter.
Slovenia's putting up the fence in the areas of Gorski Kotar and Istria, is "a clear breach" of the Habitats Directive on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora and directly contradicts the goals of environmental protection within the Natura 2000 environmental network.
Slovenia has so far erected 140 kilometres of wire fence along its border with Croatia. Ljubljana has lately encroached on Croatian territory and violated the two countries' agreement on local border traffic and cooperation on several occasions, putting a razor-wire fence in several locations that are indisputably on Croatian territory, the minister recalled, adding that Slovenia had put up barriers on a number of joint local border crossings that had been used for centuries by local residents, thus seriously disrupting their everyday life.
The Croatian authorities have so far acted cautiously, avoiding incidents, expressing their concern in five diplomatic notes sent to Slovenia over a period of five weeks. However, despite the fact that some of the highest Slovenian officials have claimed that other measures of border control will be applied in said locations, that has not happened, said Pusic.
The only concrete response by the Slovenian authorities has been the putting of a razor-wire fence in areas protected under the Natura 2000 network, said Pusic.
The fence jeopardises not only the habitats of protected species such as bears, lynx and wolves but also "the contacts between local communities that have been maintained for centuries" and it will also affect the economy and tourism on both sides of the border, said Pusic.
Hopeful that Slovenia will respond to numerous criticisms, which lately have been arriving increasingly from the Slovenian public as well, and that it will cease putting the fence in the spirit of European and good neighbourly relations and remove the one erected so far, Pusic said that she expected the EC to help in the matter.
She also informed the EC Vice President that Croatian Environmental Protection Minister Mihael Zmajlovic had written to European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella, conveying his concern about Slovenia's breaching the Habitats Directive and asking him to investigate the lawfulness of Slovenia's decision to put up a wire fence along its green border with Croatia.
Despite protests by Slovenian intellectuals and experts, Slovenian and Croatian associations and local communities on both sides of the border, Slovenian PM Miro Cerar has justified the fence as an attempt to prevent the uncontrolled arrival of refugees across the green border and protect border communities and their property, insisting that it is a temporary measure that will be revoked once the refugee tide abates.