Mr. Fleckenstein is visiting Serbia as the Chair of the Board of the German welfare organization called Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund. We met him today at the park near Central Bus Station in Belgrade where refugees are camping.
European Western Balkans: Mr. Fleckenstein, would you tell us more about your visit to Serbia and what are your first thoughts about refugees in Belgrade?
Knut Fleckenstein: My visit here is the last point of two days. We were in some camps in Northern Serbia, we have seen the barricades of Croatia and now we are here. It is depressing how poor the reaction of European Union member states is and it is impressing how Serbia is handling the situation with refugees in a way what we call European values. It would be nice to say that our governments in the member states do the same, but they don’t, not all at least.
EWB: What is your impression on camps that you have visited in Northern Serbia?
KF: Well, I think it is the best treatment which can be organized for the time being. The refugees get food and something to drink, they have a place to sleep, sometimes in tents. Now we are trying to establish firm houses for 150 places. Anyway, the doors to the EU has to be open, because the people coming here, first of all, want to go further. This is really depressing how first the Hungarians, and now the Croatians close the border and I hope this is only for a very few days.
EWB: We know that Croatia and Hungry closed their borders. Do you have some message for them?
KF: Of course. Stick to the European values and remember that solidarity is not the one side of thing! You know, we don’t have a refugee crisis, we have an EU crisis or a member states crisis. Because, in Jordan and Lebanon there is three inhabitants and one refugee. There is 500 000 000 people living in the EU and we don’t make it to give a place to 500 000 or a million? This is ridiculous and it is a question of the organization. So, the heads of the states should not just visit themselves on next Wednesday, they have to act. The European Parliament has already adopted a resolution and we ask them to act now.
EWB: Is the solution for the crisis close?
KF: I hope so. I hope that all of these governments who hide behind the people will take over their own responsibility and explain to the people what is going on. Take a look, hundreds of thousands Hungarians had to stay outside the country in the fifties. I remember a lot of people from the Czech Republic after the so called “Prague Spring”. I remember how many people have to leave abroad because of the politics, and they all got the hospitality. Now it is the time give something back as well as all the others should do.
EWB: Are you here as a MEP or do you have an another role?
KF: I am here as the Chairman of the board of a German welfare organization, first of all. We have gave here in Serbia around a half of million Euros to support efforts of the government. Secondly, I am here also as well as a member of the European Parliament and I had good discussions with Minister Vulin and Minister Dačić, and today with the Prime Minister Vučić. I can only say respect for this work and respect for the people in Serbia, I know it is not all of the people, but for those who support this situation.
EWB: Mr. Fleckenstein, thank you very much for your time.
Author: Nikola S. Ristić