Kolinda Grabar Kitarović.jpg
Photograph: HINA / Dario GRZELJ / mm

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic on Wednesday commented on the latest developments in relations with Slovenia and its decision to send its army to the border with Croatia, saying that every country had the right to protect its borders in whichever way it decided and that she hoped that the dialogue between the two countries would be retained.

"Every country has the right to protect its borders in the way it decides. Naturally, I hope that we will maintain the dialogue between the two countries," Grabar-Kitarovic told reporters after visiting the "Let's buy Croatian" event in Zagreb's main square.

"That need not be seen as an act against Croatia, it is simply implementing Schengen rules and protecting Slovenian territory. However, we must not allow this to impact political relations, bilateral relations and friendship between Croatia and Slovenia, nor our trade and transport. We simply must continue talks because the migration problem is a complex problem we are all equally faced with and we cannot resolve it individually but rather at the European and global level," Grabar-Kitarovic said.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning Slovenia's parliament adopted amendments to its defence law granting its army additional powers in protecting the country's border. The amendments were adopted following a proposal by the government in the wake of a new wave of migrants coming from Croatia and criticism from the right-wing opposition that the government was not sufficiently controlling the state border, which is at the same time the external border of the Schengen area of passport-free travel, and that the system to control the influx of migrants had fallen apart.

Slovenia's army consists of about 7,000 troops and the amended law, which comes into force as of today, authorises troops along the border with Croatia to issue warnings and instructions to migrants in cooperation with the police, to temporarily limit their movement, and to establish control and calm down crowds by using force.

The additional police powers granted to the army along the 670 kilometre border with Croatia will remain in force for a maximum of three months and they may be extended. Slovenia's Prime Minister Miro Cerar said that the amendments to the law were aimed at adjusting the situation on the border in the case of a greater influx of migrants as the army had until now successfully cooperated with the police offering logistic support.

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