By Sven Milekic
There are concerns in Croatia that Monday’s terror attack in the UK will result in tighter checks – and long queues – on the Slovenia-Croatia border, undermining the tourism industry.
Following Monday’s terrorist attack in Manchester, England, which killed 22 people at a pop concert, Croatian media are speculating that tighter security checks will be reintroduced on the external border of the EU’s passport-free Schengen Area, which separates Croatia and Slovenia.
The main concern is that big queues on the border between Slovenia and Croatia will undermine the hugely important tourist industry.
Igor Tabak, a military and security analyst from the expert website Obris, told BIRN that whiler stricter border controls are possible, they “won’t resolve the issue at hand”, as security checks on borders “fundamentally don’t have a connection” with terrorist attacks like the one carried out in Manchester.
He explained that this is because border controls cannot stop people who already live inside the EU from carrying out such attacks.
[Manchester’s chief suspect was a young man, born to a family of refugees in the UK from Libya, who lived in London.]
According to Tabak, such security measures “can only make life worse for people who often cross the border”, as well as for tourists coming to Croatia, but have “a really small influence on the [type of] terrorism we have witnessed in Belgium, France and in the UK”.
Adopted by the European Parliament in March as a response to the recent increase in terrorist attacks, the EU introduced systematic full security checks for all passengers leaving or entering the Schengen Area in early April.
This caused massive queues on the border between Slovenia and Croatia, however, prompting the border authorities to temporarily stop its implementation.
One concern in Croatia is that long waits on the border may damage tourism, which accounts for some 18 per cent of Croatia’s annual GDP.
The bulk of tourists from Western and Central Europe come to Croatia by cars and buses that pass through Slovenia.
For this reason, the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and his Slovenian counterpart, Miro Cerar, in late April agreed that border controls should switch from systematic to targeted border checks, if the waiting times on the border were longer than 15 minutes.
However, there are still reports that longer waits on the border are occurring.
Although Croatia is not a member of the Schengen Area – like non-member EU states Bulgaria and Romania – it will have full access to the Schengen Information System by June 27, which is a step closer to becoming a part of the area.