vlaho orepić.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Lana SLIVAR DOMINIĆ/ lsd

Croatian Interior Minister Vlaho Orepic said in Dubrovnik on Tuesday that the only solution to migrant flows was unity among European Union member states, while his Austrian counterpart, Wolfgang Sobotka, said migrants should know that the EU would defend its external borders, by force if necessary.

Speaking to the press after a two-day conference of the Salzburg Forum, which took place in Dubrovnik, Orepic said the main topics were migrations, border control and combating terrorism.

"The solution to all those issues lies in the word 'unity'. 686,000 migrants entered Croatia and all attempts by countries to find solutions alone failed. Since we started thinking together, the previous migrant flows stopped existing and now we oversee those processes," Orepic said, adding that Croatia had gone from being a passive position to being an active co-creator of the security policy of the EU and Southeast Europe.

Sobotka said the common position was that it was necessary to ensure the protection of EU borders and citizens and that migrants should be given the possibility to find security near their countries. We must shut down smuggling routes, notably during the ongoing European football championship, he said.

Sobotka said migrants should know that the EU would defend its borders, with the police and the military if necessary.

Migrants should be told that so that they will know from the start that we will protect the external Schengen borders. We can't depend on third countries. We will ensure that, if necessary with the help of the army. Police cooperation at international level is necessary in the fight against terrorism. That's how we will identify foreign fighters, that's how we found the attackers from Brussels relatively quickly, he said, adding that it was important to work on prevention to stop the radicalisation of society.

Dutch Migration Minister Klaas Dijkhoff said the EU had not handled the migrant crisis well at the beginning.

The solution was found when the borders were defended and migrants could no longer seek routes by themselves. That was the first step and the next one was the agreement with Turkey. We must also stop migrants from arriving via the Mediterranean and work on returning them to the countries from which they came, he said.

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