Limassol, February 26, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
With the support of the greek positions on the refugee issue closed the proceedings of the 3rd Informal Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Mediterranean EU countries in Limassol.
After the end of the works of the meeting the Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias stated: “In the third meeting of the Med Group Member States (Portugal, Spain, France, Malta, Italy, Greece and Cyprus) there was a unanimous placement in favor of the greek positions on the refugee issue and there was a clear criticism to all those who seek individual solutions to the detriment of other member states. It was underlined that Europe’s future is connected with seeking and implementing joint European solutions and with respect to the decisions of the European institutions, something I emphasized in the Synod. It is unacceptable for unanimous decisions taken by EU elected Heads of State and Governments of the member states to be overturned by two or three EU members, citing police directors decisions.
Apart from the refugee issue, there is also a matter of democracy. It is unheard of to ask us to discipline to bureaucratic structures on issues for which, just a few days prior, decisions have been made by the elected representatives of societies of EU Member States? Clearly the question is rhetorical and the answer is very simple”.
Responding to a question by IBNA’s representative, “do you think that we can have a solution to the refugee crisis in the EU?”, the Spanish Foreign Minister said:
“I think we do not have the solution yet. It is very clear that Spain, our government, is willing to help Greece as much as possible to put in place the so-called hot spots in Greece which is the same case as in Italy. I understand very well that you need financial assistance to do so, because you are supporting a bigger share of the burden than you can probably afford and you can take. We are against even considering exclusion of Greece from the Zone Schengen. So, we understand the problem you are facing, the necessities you have at this point and we think the EU as a whole should help the Greek government to overcome these difficulties”.
Asked whether Greece can expect support from Spain in this crisis, he replied:
We are supportive in everything that can be done to help the EU members and to face the refugee crisis, which is a humanitarian crisis. We understand that very well. To do it correctly, I think we need a European approach, a holistic, a global approach from the European Union, which is not the case. So, you have to contemplate both things; they are different, but connected: one is migration and the other is asylum rights. There are some problems which are the same. When they arrive on European shores you must have hot spots to identify them and to distribute them and to take account of the humanitarian necessities when they arrive here. So, you can count on our help.
On his part, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malta Mr. George Vella, responding to a question by IBNA’s journalist Spiros Sideris, on his country’s support to Greece, said that
“We had something similar but you know, not this big. Proportionately it was as big. We are a small island and in 2002, 2003, 2004, we were actually passing through something similar with thousands coming to our shores and we were asking the other countries of the European Union to involve themselves and to help us but no help ever came.
So we were left by ourselves to the extent that some of them used to tell us “this is your problem”. So, we can understand the problem of Greece. We fully understand that Greece can not control the exodus from Turkey, knowing full well that between Turkish shores and Lesvos, within two minutes, a fast boat can cross the mid-line and they come into Greek waters. So I will not be one of those who are saying that this is a Greek problem; definitely not. It’s a European problem and we give full backing to all the measures and all the decisions that could be taken to help Greece face the problem. I will not say this is Greece’s problem. This is a problem of the European Union and any help which we can give to Greece, like hot spots, like controls, like personnel, financial, I think that is actually the spirit of cooperation there should be between the EU.
Now, as far as what Greece can do, I think it’s limited. Greece can react by abiding by the regulations, by fingerprinting, by controlling, by manning the hot spots, but once there is no control from the other side, from the Turkish side, it’s absolutely impossible, because you can not send people back in their boats . We’ve seen them drown once you send them back. I mean, we’ve been through this, this is why I am very sensitive about it. So, I think that from Malta’s side, you have all our sympathy and our understanding and we know that Greece is not the problem; part of the responsibility is with Greece, part of it is with Turkey and obviously a larger part is with the whole of the European Union to provide the infrastructure, to provide the help and also the guidance and the financial means to see that Greece does what it has to do”.
As to whether the EU can find a solution, Mr. Vella said:
“Well, finding a solution is not easy to answer. Because a solution means one would have to do away with the causes of origin. The causes of origin are not under the control of Europe or under the control of Greece. The source of origin is the war in Syria. The war in Syria is the origin of the problem and you can not talk about a solution if you do not solve the problem. The problem in Syria is complicated, it’s complex. As we know many attempts and many initiatives are being taken hoping that the Vienna discussions will bring some sort of stability because then it will mean that there will be less migrants and hopefully even migrants will return to Syria eventually if peace prevails. But I do not think there is a solution as of now. At the moment one will have to make do with the phenomenon and do the best one can to alleviate the problem, first of all from the humanitarian point of view of the migrants themselves and secondly without putting undue strain on countries of transit or countries of destination. Greece is practically a country of transit in this whole phenomenon and, as I said in the beginning, I think it should be given all the support and understanding that one merits when one is exposed to such phenomena”.