Milo Cerar’s government has decided to construct a fence of barbed wire along 500 km of Slovenia’s 671 km long border with Croatia, in preparation for the expected wave of migrants in the spring.

The decision was met with protests in Zagreb, where the regime has criticised Ljubljana for profiting from the opportunity to lay down a demarcation line between the two countries: determining the path of the shared border is still under international arbitration. Likewise, in Slovenia the barbed wire fence has drawn criticism, particularly when security services began constructing it along the coast, in Istrie, a tourist hotspot, and along the river Kupa, the natural border between Slovenia and Croatia. Opponents point to the Second World War, when the Nazis surrounded Ljubljana with barbed wire; people living in the border regions fear for the impact on tourism, while animal rights activists have criticised the damage barbed wire does to wild animals, who regularly cross from one country to the other, and have published photos of bloodied animals trapped in the fences.

The government has justified its measure through the need to “protect the State, its citizens and their property,” while also claiming that the barbed wire, installed by the same company that constructed the enclosure for Ljubljana Zoo, “has been put in place to ensure [migrants’] safety” and “to stop the humanitarian situation from worsening.”

On the Slovenian side of things, Delo claims that the “kilometres of barbed wire cropping up all along the sloven-croat border”, notably “in the Dragonja Valley and in Bela Krajina

appear as a foreign element in the natural setting. Yet this has become our new reality. The population has been living with it despite the lack of any democratic debate, with restrictions on liberty, the dehumanisation of refugees, the worsening of relations with Croatia and the radicalisation of society. And this comes at a time when, paradoxically, the migratory wave has been slowing and the routes taken up to now by refugees are closing.

In Zagreb, daily Vecernji Iist has attacked the attitude of its European partners towards countries at the Union’s periphery. The newspaper claims that “Brussels and Angela Merkel did not show any understanding for Hungary when it began constructing a barbed wire fence. When Slovenia begins to build its own, Merkel says nothing. What is the difference?” the paper asks. “Hundreds of thousands more refugees in Germany and a 10% lower approval rating for the Chancellor,” it explains. For Vecernji Iist,

the European Union, without a common foreign policy and divided by individual interests, has shown its tragic inability to manage its borders. So it has ceded the task of erecting barbed wire to countries at its periphery, in this case Slovenia, who must carry out the dirty job instead.

The Slovenian post-punk band Laibach, fresh from a tour in North Korea – the first western group to have this opportunity – will give a concert in Brussels on 9 February under the banner “Europe without borders. It has heavily criticised the Ljubljana government’s initiative. In an interview on the Croatian site Lupiga, the group’s lead calls the Slovenian government “paranoid, self-centred, narcissistic and reactionary”, judging public opinion in support of the barbed wire to be “narrow-minded”.