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Montenegro will have to close borders if neighbours do: PM

LONDON (Reuters) - Montenegro will have to close its borders to refugees and migrants to avoid being overwhelmed if other nearby countries do so, the country’s prime minister told Reuters on Monday.

Europe is suffering its biggest migrant crisis since World War Two. More than a million migrants entered the European Union last year via the Balkan route, crossing through Greece, Macedonia and Serbia towards wealthier western Europe.

Montenegro, a tiny ex-Yugoslav republic sandwiched between Serbia, Albania and the Adriatic Sea, is not on the main Balkan route, but fears that Macedonia may shut its border with Greece, possibly diverting many migrants into Albania and Montenegro.

“If the European countries dealing with the consequences of the migrant crisis opt to close their borders, what else is there for a country like Montenegro to do,” said Djukanovic, in London for a conference of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

“Of course” Montenegro would have to shut its borders, he said, if Macedonia shut its frontier with Greece and further north countries such as Hungary and Austria tightened their own border restrictions.

On Monday thousands of migrants were stranded in northern Greece after Macedonia demanded additional identification from people seeking to cross the border and head to western Europe, witnesses said.

Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia are all official candidates for European Union membership, though they are unlikely to join the bloc for many years.

Austria has invited the Balkan states to talks on migration in Vienna on Wednesday following its own move to limit asylum applicants to 80 per day.

EU justice and home affairs ministers will also discuss the migrant crisis again in Brussels on Thursday ahead of a summit of the bloc’s heads of state and government on March 17-18.

Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by Gareth Jones