Query: New evidence of push-backs at the Croatian border

There is ever more evidence of the illegal and violent rejection of asylum seekers at the Croatian-Bosnian border. Together with other MEPs, I have asked the EU Commission when it will finally react.

Subject: New evidence of push-back measures at the Croatian border - will the Commission finally react?

On 18 November 2020, the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel published a report on illegal returns at the Croatian border. The report documents how Croatian border officials use force to deport asylum seekers across the border to Bosnia and Herzegovina. In addition, Frontex has recorded videos at the Croatian external border where push-backs and serious human rights violations have taken place.

1. in view of the reliability of the source and the video footage provided, will the Commission immediately launch an investigation into the allegations against Croatian border officials and Frontex, taking into account the existing Frontex recordings?

2. the Croatian border guards are clearly not acting in accordance with the Schengen Borders Code. What does this mean for Croatia's future accession to the Schengen area?

3. Croatian border officials have violated international and EU law. These violations include, inter alia, Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union, Article 13 of Regulation (EC) No 562/2006 and Article 21 of Directive 2011/95/EU. In view of these breaches, what steps will the Commission take in response to these events, in addition to possibly initiating infringement proceedings against the Croatian Government?

Answer given by Commissioner Ylva Johansson on behalf of the European Commission on 19.4.2021:

The Commission takes all reports of alleged refoulement of migrants very seriously. While it does not have the power to investigate alleged misconduct by Member States' law enforcement authorities, it closely monitors the extent to which fundamental rights are respected and expects Member States to investigate and take appropriate action where necessary. No Frontex personnel or assets are deployed at Croatia's external land borders.

Respect for fundamental rights is an important part of the Schengen acquis. In its communication[1] of 2019, the Commission concluded that Croatia has taken the necessary measures to ensure that the conditions necessary for the application of the Schengen acquis are met. To ensure that this remains the case, Croatia should continue to work consistently on the implementation of all ongoing measures. On 17 November 2020, the Commission, together with the Fundamental Rights Agency, carried out a monitoring visit to Croatia. Its main purpose was to assess the current situation and discuss the establishment of an effective and independent monitoring mechanism to address reported and possible future fundamental rights violations at the border in a coherent and transparent manner.

In addition, the Commission maintains regular bilateral contacts with Croatia to obtain information on the allegations and the investigations to be carried out by the authorities. Regular meetings are also held with the Croatian Ombudsman and international and non-governmental organisations to receive updates on incidents.

The Commission is engaged in intensive discussions with Croatia and relevant stakeholders on the establishment of an independent monitoring mechanism and to ensure greater transparency in the follow-up of incidents.

[1] COM(2019)497 of 22 October 2019, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/DE/TXT/?uri=COM:2019:0497:FIN.