Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said on Friday that the migrant crisis required a single and comprehensive solution taking into account security and economic problems in migrants' countries of origin.
"A comprehensive solution is necessary. It should be decided who is entitled to asylum and then the countries which are obliged to accept the migrants should accept them. Under European law, people cannot choose a country they will go to, but should go to those countries that will take them in. Once this has been decided, there is no need for those people to travel by land, but transport can be organised to their destinations, because now we only support people traffickers," Grabar-Kitarovic told the press at the GLOBSEC security forum which is taking place in Bratislava from Friday to Sunday.
In the morning the Croatian president attended the Global Young Leaders' Forum, held on the margins of the GLOBSEC conference, where young people from Montenegro, Romania, Macedonia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Serbia and Slovakia discussed the migrant crisis and its impact on the political situation in Europe. In her speech, Grabar-Kitarovic also stressed the importance of comprehensive solutions to the migrant crisis, adding that security and economic problems faced by migrants' countries of origin should not be ignored.
The 11th GLOBSEC conference was opened by Slovak President Andrej Kiska and those present were also greeted by Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak and his Czech counterpart Lubomir Zaoralek.
Europe and the world are facing major challenges. It is worrying what is going on in society, Kiska said, citing xenophobia, extremism and doubts about democracy.
Lajcak said that the undermining of our values and an attack on the foundations of our system are particularly dangerous. That is as dangerous as terrorism and we therefore have to fight to maintain the democracy, he said.
"If you treat someone as an enemy, then sooner or later they become one. We should maintain dialogue with Russia, we should talk. Relations are not as they used to be before the Ukraine crisis," Grabar-Kitarovic said in her comment on relations between the EU and Russia. She noted that German Foreign Minister Ursula von der Leyen had told the forum that currently Russia was not a partner.
"There is room for improving the relationship, but it should be insisted that Russia respect the principles of international law, such as sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence," the Croatian president said. "I definitely see the future of the European continent in mutual cooperation against common threats, in particular threats of terrorism and religious extremism," she added.
The press were also interested in the president's position on the Croatian defence budget. Grabar-Kitarovic noted that she always said that the best guarantor of Croatian security, regardless of the country's NATO membership, were well-trained and well-equipped Croatian armed forces, which is why she said it was important to maintain the defence budget at an appropriate level.
"At the NATO summit in Wales we assumed an international obligation to increase the defence budget to 2% of GDP until 2024. Unfortunately, this year there has been a reduction, but I hope that next year we will define our defence needs in the budget. We're still not investing enough in technological development," Grabar-Kitarovic said.
Speaking of the situation in the Western Balkans, Grabar-Kitarovic said that "small crises" should not be underestimated.
"We should never underestimate a possibility of small crises escalating into burning issues literally overnight. We should discuss bilateral issues, defuse tensions and work together in the spirit of good neighbourliness and in the common interest of peace and prosperity in Southeast Europe," she said.