Minister admits police violence, does not fear Schengen membership

ZAGREB, October 9 – Interior Minister Davor Božinović on Friday confirmed in Luxembourg that Croatian police officers had participated in the violence against migrants on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, but that this would not affect the aspirations of the Croatia to join the Schengen area.

Several European media outlets on Wednesday evening published disturbing video recordings showing masked men wearing clothes similar to Croatian police uniforms pushing migrants back to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Masked men repelled migrants from Croatia across a backwater in the Korana River, hitting them with batons such as those used by riot police. Some of the men also wore vests like the riot police.

“As soon as he saw the footage, the direct police sent a task force which worked very intensely and as far as I know at the moment they determined that they were police officers,” Božinović said. in Luxembourg, where he takes part in a meeting of EU interior ministers.

He assumes that these were “individual acts of violation committed by several police officers”.

Božinović added that the director or someone from the police department should provide more details.

The Minister considers that these incidents will not provoke negative political reactions in the EU, with regard to Croatia’s efforts to join the Schengen area.

“No, I don’t expect any negative reactions at all. In all the police forces around the world, since the police are in close contact with citizens, with delinquents and with all categories of people, sometimes they are beyond their powers. We will see if that was the case here, then sanctions will be imposed, “said Božinović.

“If legal action could prove what we are talking about, then it is certainly unacceptable behavior, but I would not link it exclusively to the suppression of illegal immigration. This is unacceptable behavior by a police officer in any situation, whether on the street, at the stadium or elsewhere, “he added.

As for Croatia’s accession to the Schengen area, Božinović said that things were going well, that the most demanding negotiations for the accession to the area without internal border control had been completed, that the police were was shown to be ready and had successfully passed the strict external border protection assessment.

After video recordings of violence against migrants in Croatia and Greece were broadcast in several EU countries, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylve Johansson said on Thursday they were shocking and there was evidence convincing reasons for the misuse of European funds, which the EU gives to its member states for the management of the external borders.

EC spokesman Adalbert Jahnz announced an investigation into whether Croatia had used money from European border management funds to accommodate staff who had participated in forced refoulements of migrants.

We are closely monitoring how EU money is spent and if it is established that it has been used for illegal actions then there may be a suspension of payment or fines or requests for return of the money, Jahnz said.

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