vlaho orepić.jpg
Photograph: Hina/ Dario GRZELJ/ dag

Croatian Interior Minister Vlaho Orepic said on Thursday that the reactivation of Schengen rules also implied consequences, attempting to tone down the dissatisfaction expressed by Greece over the closure of the Balkan route used by Middle Eastern and North African migrants trying to reach western Europe.

"The decision to establish the Schengen Code brings about consequences, and people should now get accustomed to the new circumstances around them. I believe this is only initial confusion, just as it was at the outbreak of the migrant crisis. I believe that we will soon catch up with the current phase in the migrant crisis," the Croatian minister told reporters in Brussels when asked to comment on the Greek irritation over the fact that the route via the Greece-Macedonia border was shut.

Orepic arrived in Brussels to attend a meeting of the European Union member states' ministers within the Justice and Home Affairs Council that discussed the migrant crisis, establishment of European border and coast guard, and firearms possession.

During an EU-Turkey summit on Monday, EU heads of state or government agreed that the Schengen Borders Code must be reimposed.

However, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras strongly criticised the decision to close the Balkan route.

“The Western Balkans route has come to an end due to unilateral actions by certain countries. EU has no future if it goes on like that,” Tsipras tweeted.

Tsipras was responding to comments made by European Council President Donald Tusk late on Wednesday, after Balkan countries closed their borders to refugees and migrants at midnight. "We expect D. Tusk, president of EU28 to focus efforts on implementing our common decisions and not encourage those who ignore them," the Greek PM wrote on his Twitter account.

This was a reaction to Tusk's message of thanks to western Balkan countries for the implementation of a comprehensive EU strategy for managing the migrant crisis.

Today, Minister Orepic said that the meeting conveyed unanimous support for the reactivation of the Schengen Code and also pledged assistance to Greece.

"I have personally emphasised the importance of the Macedonia-Greece border as a gateway to Europe, until this situation defuses. This is very important for us, although we (Croatia), who are not obliged to implement the Schengen Code, will be asked to implement it," Orepic said.

He reiterated that he did not expect the re-routing of the flow of migrants from Greece via Albania and further towards Croatia, nevertheless, he said, Croatia was prepared for any circumstance.

Asked by reporters if the authorities were raising the alert on the peninsula of Prevlaka along its border with Montenegro, Orepic answered in the negative.

"We are performing our duties as usual, but we are preparing for extraordinary circumstances. We have the space and the potential to raise our preparedness along our frontiers," Orepic said.

He added that Zagreb was also supportive of the European Commission's proposal for the establishment of the European Border and Coast Guard.

He explained that the Guard service is to consist of 1,500 staffers, and Croatia's contribution will be 65.

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