EU Commission supports Croatia's Schengen accession despite pushback

On 15 June, together with eleven other Members from three political groups. wrote this letter to inspector Ylva Johanssonin which we call on the Commission to take immediate action against the pushbacks and human rights violations by Croatia at the EU's external border. The letter was prompted by Media reports from Spiegel, ARD, Lifhthouse Reports and Novostiwhich show that even children, pregnant women and people with disabilities are brutally pushed.

This broad Europe-wide network of journalists published new reports of pushbacks by Croatian border guards, in six cases specifically documented with videos. Entire families and vulnerable people are being pushed back across the EU border through the forest. One case involves a pregnant woman in her eighth month with five small children. The six videos show a total of around 65 people, including 20 children, being illegally pushed. Among them even a man with a heart condition and crutches.

In the letter we criticize that the impression is created that the Commission and the Council want to convey to the public that human rights violations are to be prevented, but in practice member states of the European Union can simply do what they want and the Commission looks on.

Commission's reply

In her reply, Ms Johansson writesthat it expects the Croatian authorities to take the reports seriously and investigate them. This is welcome, but in the past such calls have also been largely ignored by the Croatian side and the practice of pushbacks has continued. Ms Johansson draws attention to the fact that Croatia has agreed to a new monitoring mechanism at the border, which will also include the Red Cross and other organisations.

The problem is that the visits of the organizations are announced in advance. This is like the police announcing a day before a house search that they now want to search the house and then being surprised when nothing suspicious is found in the apartment. In this form, the monitoring mechanism is neither independent, nor will it serve its purpose. Despite the obvious human rights violations and the breach of the Schengen Border Code, the Commission is maintaining its recommendation that Croatia be admitted as a member of the Schengen area.

To support the surveillance mechanism, the Commission has pledged €14.4 million to the Croatian Ministry of Interior. The project financed by this grant agreement will last until May 2022 and is expected to further strengthen border surveillance, according to the Commission.