Nerves are on edge along Balkan refugee route

The refugee crisis has put a strain on already difficult relations between Balkan countries. Borders are being shut and fences built. To make matters worse, Croatian parliamentary elections are coming up this autumn.

In the past few days, the acrimonious exchange of words has been reminiscent of the Yugoslav War era.

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic has accused neighbors Serbia and Hungary of hatching a plot to rid themselves of refugees by forcing them to go through Croatia.

Until now, about 85,000 refugees have entered the small country, most of which were sent to the Hungarian or Slovenian border later on. It was too great a burden, according to Milanovic, who closed the border to Serbian-registered motor vehicles. The prime minister also went into a rant about Croatians not wanting to be taken for idiots and described Serbia as a “non-functioning” and “random” state, calling its leaders “flies”.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic countered the rant by branding it “uncivilized”, “insane” and an “expression of hatred towards Serbs.”

He closed the border to Croatia. His country’s foreign ministry wrote a note of protest comparing present-day Croatia with the fascist Ustasa state of World War II, while Serbian media called the Croatian leader a “fascist” and an “idiot.”

The government in Budapest sent a note of protest to Zagreb after Croatia proposed that Serbia send some of its refugees to Hungary. Budapest stated it would normalize relations only if a new government came to power in Croatia. At the same time, the Hungarian government began to build a barbed wire fence on the border with Croatia just after having completed one on the Hungarian-Serbian border. Almost in passing, Budapest announced that it would roll out barbed wire on the border to Slovenia. The small Alpine country, which is also a member of Schengen zone of visa-free travel, stated it would send refugees without valid documents back to Croatia and that it would not tolerate the chaos.

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