Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said on Thursday that Slovenia was putting up a fence along its border with Croatia "apparently for domestic political reasons", while his Slovenian counterpart Miro Cerar said that Slovenia feared that Croatia might again re-route the flow of refugees away from official border crossings.
The two prime ministers were speaking to the press in Valletta, Malta, where they were attending an EU summit on the refugee crisis. They met briefly on arrival.
"We spoke on the phone yesterday and the day before yesterday. He announced that. I am not going into why he is doing that. I guess it's for domestic political reasons. I mean, fencing off a couple of kilometres around the border crossing means nothing. We have just talked about everything we can do, and what we can do is avoid any friction because there's no reason for it. And friction often occurs because of misunderstandings, omissions in communication, and in this case there's nothing serious," Milanovic told the press.
Cerar said that he had told Milanovic to continue sending migrants to the agreed points of entry to Slovenia. "I felt that Croatia might again re-route the refugee wave to other points, which to me seems senseless and unnecessary. I wish to stress that the purpose of those barriers is to direct the flow to where we can receive them normally, register them and later take care of them."
Cerar said that the Slovenian authorities had carefully considered where to put up the wire fence so as not to prejudge the course of the border line in the arbitration between the two countries. "I assured him that we are putting up the fence only on our side of the border. As I have told him several times in the previous days, with this we don't want to prejudge the outcome of the border problem or the issues that are being dealt with by the arbitration tribunal and that's why we are not putting up obstacles there (on Croatian territory)."
Cerar said that Slovenia was also putting up obstacles to be able to respond quickly if Austria and Germany narrowed the passage for refugees or shut it completely.
"If Austria narrows the passage across the border, so many migrants may appear in Slovenia in a short time that we will not be able to take care of them properly in this cold weather. We do not have enough heated facilities, even though we are increasing our capacity. That's why it's important that we only receive as many as we can take care of properly. Of course, it is also important that all the countries on the Balkan route slow this influx in accordance with the Brussels agreement. With this, Slovenia is also helping to slow this influx. We expect Croatia and each country to the east and south to do the same," Cerar said.
Speaking of the informal summit, Milanovic said that no decisions should be expected. "No formal decisions will be taken. This is a burning issue and there's no end in sight. We have got used to the routine of 5,000-6,000 people coming to Croatia daily. In the end it will all depend on Germany and Turkey," he concluded.