news 25 Sep 15

Serbia and Croatia Maintain Border Blockade

Although Serbian and Croatian officials expressed hopes of ending the border dispute, the two countries continued on Friday to block each other's freight and some passenger traffic.

Igor Jovanovic
BIRN
Belgrade
Refugees at Sid, Serbia, near the border with Croatia | Photo by Beta

After the dispute over the flow of the refugees escalated into a border dispute between the two countries, Croatia on Friday continued to block freight and some passenger traffic from Serbia while Belgrade still did not allow freight transport from Croatia to enter.

Both countries said they were ready to compromise but there were no signs that the blockades on the border crossings would end soon.

The Automobile and Motorcycle Association of Serbia, AMSS, said that Croatian police on Friday opened the Sid border crossing to passenger traffic but retained the ban on vehicles with Serbian license plates.

It is also said that Batrovci/Bajakovo border crossing remained closed for freight transport except for trucks with perishable goods.

After Serbia protested on Thursday over the Croatian ban on people entering with Serbian passports, Croatian officials have reconsidered the measure but with some restrictions.

Serbian citizens on Friday could reportedly enter Croatia, but only on foot or in a vehicles not carrying Serbian license plates.

Serbian officials said they would not prevent Croatian citizens from entering Serbia but will retain the blockade on freight transport from Croatia until Croatia reopens its borders.

Nikola Selakovic, the Serbian Justice Minister, on Friday said that the EU should “clearly say” that Croatia had undermined Serbia's Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU by closing border crossings.

Ahead of the visit of Johannes Hahn, the EU Enlargement Commissioner, to Serbia on Friday, Selakovic told Belgrade’s TV Pink that Croatia had violated several international agreements and that the Belgrade government would protest to Commissioner Hahn.

Starting his visit to Serbia, Hahn visited the refugee reception camp in Sid with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and said the EU was grateful to Serbia for all it had done with the refugees, promising that the EU would provide financial and political support.

"You are not alone, you are Europeans, and we should work together. We do not need to establish new borders," Serbia's Tanjug news agency cited Hahn as saying.

Vucic noted that although Serbia was the country through which the largest number of the refugees had passed, they were all treated well and Serbia had no troubles with them.

In Croatia, Vesna Pusic, the Croatian Foreign Minister, on Friday said that both countries “need to lower the tensions.

“We are aware that Serbia does not know what to do with the refugees except to bring them to the Croatian border, but that is something which is not easy for us either, to take care of some 10,000 to 12,000 people who came across the border during one night,” Croatian news agency quoted Pusic as saying.

According to the Croatian government, around 5,000 new refugees entered the country from Serbia Thursday night.

Serbian officials have denied deliberately sending refugees towards Croatia saying that no one can influence the migrants' routes after Hungary closed its borders in mid-September.

Aleksandar Vucic, the Serbian Prime Minister, said on Thursday he was optimistic that the border dispute could be solved in the next few days.

"I think all of this will be finished in the shortest possible time... I can give my own assessment, and you know that I am almost always pessimistic, I think we can resolve this in the next few days," he said.  

 

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