Croatia has banned all Serbs from entering its territory Thursday morning in retaliation for Serbs banning Croatian trucks from its territory in retaliation for Croatia shutting down all Serbian border crossings etc. A chain reaction of events that have one common root: the Hungarian border fence that has stopped refugees from entering Hungary and has left them stranded in Serbia. Serbia then bussed the refugees to the Croatian border, only to be transported to the Hungarian border by Croatian authorities. Hungary has quickly realized that despite all rhetoric about the defence of Europe’s borders, the easiest solution to the problem was to forward the refugees immediately to the Austrian border.
A total breakdown of European rules.
It had one benefit: at least the refugees got quickly closer to the places they wanted to reach anyway.
Now imagine what will happen when Hungary completes the new section of the fence built at neck breaking speed at the Croatian border. The refugees will be stuck in Serbia and Croatia, and then they will move on to Slovenia, which will not be able to shut its borders without resorting to force. This will further enhance tension among the post-Yugoslav countries that were last engaged in a series of bloody wars between 1991 and 2001. Emotions can get out of control extremely easily in that part of the world, particularly if the governments do little to tone down their rhetoric. Two of the countries involved, Slovenia and Croatia, are members of the European Union; Serbia is a candidate for membership. And we should not forget about Hungary, the third EU member state which has contributed significantly to the situation becoming explosive. We think that the EU should take immediate action and bring the involved parties to the table to resolve the conflict. Should something tragic happen to a refugee or a truck driver or a border guard would mean that the EU has utterly failed in handling the situation.
It is very obvious that without a general solution to the refugee crisis it will be very tedious if not impossible to defuse the Balkan situation. A possible short-term solution could be to allow all migrants to pass through unhindered, which would, on the other hand, only make the migration wheel spin even faster. Our view on the long-term solution can be found here.
It seems that the extraordinary EU summit that ended Wednesday night did not bring a major breakthrough, but some important decisions have been taken concerning the funding of aid organizations and the implementation of relevant EU rules. We would highly recommend the Guardian’s excellent coverage of the EU summit (here) and the statement issued following the Summit (here).
One important message of the Guardian coverage is that although the significance of Turkey in finding a long-term solution has not been talked about too much recently, it should not be underestimated. 100 years after almost completely withdrawing from the continent, once again, it seems, Turkey will play a key role in shaping European affairs whether Europe likes it or not.
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