At the infor­mal mee­ting of EU inte­ri­or minis­ters on March 12, 2021, Croa­tia’s Schen­gen acces­si­on will be on the agen­da. PRO ASYL, the Croa­ti­an Cent­re for Peace Stu­dies (CPS) and Bal­kan­brü­cke call for making the respect of human rights at the bor­ders of the EU a pre­con­di­ti­on for the fur­ther acces­si­on process.

The vio­lent push­backs at the Croa­ti­an-Bos­ni­an bor­der have been well docu­men­ted for years. The bor­der poli­ce acts in a com­ple­te­ly unin­hi­bi­ted man­ner against tho­se see­king pro­tec­tion. Tho­se affec­ted regu­lar­ly report inhu­ma­ne tre­at­ment by the Croa­ti­an poli­ce forces. Sys­te­ma­ti­cal­ly, they are thus pre­ven­ted from app­ly­ing for asyl­um in the EU.

“While we agree that expan­ding the Schen­gen space could be a posi­ti­ve move towards impro­ve­ment of free move­ment insi­de the Euro­pean Uni­on, Croatia’s Schen­gen mem­ber­ship should be made con­di­tio­nal on the imme­dia­te end to the Croa­ti­an Government’s ille­gal and vio­lent push­backs of migrants. Such prac­ti­ce at the soon-to-beco­me Schen­gen bor­der not only direct­ly vio­la­tes pro­vi­si­ons of the Schen­gen Bor­ders Code but repres­ents a vio­la­ti­on of inter­na­tio­nal and EU law, inclu­ding the Gen­e­va Con­ven­ti­on on the Sta­tus of Refu­gees,” said Sara Kekuš from the Cent­re for Peace Studies.

Sin­ce the end of 2018, Croa­tia has recei­ved over 18 mil­li­on euros from the EU for bor­der pro­tec­tion. From the Ger­man Minis­try of the Inte­ri­or comes addi­tio­nal sup­port in the form of vehic­les and ther­mal ima­ging came­ras. Accor­ding to Croa­ti­an Inte­ri­or Minis­ter Davor Boži­no­vić, Ger­ma­ny is among tho­se most fami­li­ar with the work of the Croa­ti­an bor­der poli­ce.

„The Schen­gen area has never been an area of human rights, open bor­ders insi­de the EU are con­nec­ted to clo­sed exter­nal bor­ders. But Croa­tia dis­re­gards even the mini­mum stan­dards of Euro­pean law, which are laid down in the Schen­gen Bor­ders Code. And for this they recei­ve poli­ti­cal sup­port from Ger­ma­ny and the EU,“ comm­ents Karl Kopp, head of the Euro­pean Depart­ment of PRO ASYL.

“Ins­tead of prai­sing Croa­tia at this mee­ting, the ille­gal and vio­lent prac­ti­ces at the Croa­ti­an bor­ders must final­ly be addres­sed and con­dem­ned. They are part of the EU’s sys­te­ma­ti­cal­ly racist seal­ing-off and should thus also be per­cei­ved as its respon­si­bi­li­ty,“ sagt Pau­li­ne Zap­ke von der Balkanbrücke.

To date, the Croa­ti­an govern­ment has not estab­lished a human rights moni­to­ring mecha­nism, alt­hough €300,000 of the EU’s finan­cial sup­port is ear­mark­ed for this pur­po­se. Ins­tead, the Croa­ti­an Ombuds­wo­man and civil socie­ty orga­niza­ti­ons are hin­de­red in their work. In Novem­ber 2020, the Euro­pean Ombuds­man Emi­ly O’Reil­ly laun­ched an inves­ti­ga­ti­on into the lack of the mechanism.

EU’s inte­ri­or minis­ters must draw con­se­quen­ces from the human rights vio­la­ti­ons at the Croa­ti­an-Bos­ni­an bor­der and link the Schen­gen acces­si­on pro­cess to an end to push­backs and exces­ses of violence.

PRO ASYL, the Cent­re for Peace Stu­dies and Bal­kan­brü­cke demand:

  • Human Rights com­pli­ance and the ter­mi­na­ti­on of push­backs must be made a pre­con­di­ti­on for Croa­tia’s fur­ther Schen­gen acces­si­on process.
  • End of impu­ni­ty: Human rights vio­la­ti­ons at the bor­der must be legal­ly prosecuted.
  • An inde­pen­dent human rights moni­to­ring mecha­nism at the Croa­ti­an bor­ders must be estab­lished. The Croa­ti­an Ombuds­wo­man must not be hin­de­red in her work.
  • In view of the poli­ce vio­lence against pro­tec­tion see­kers, the EU and Ger­ma­ny must stop sup­port­ing the Croa­ti­an bor­der police.


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