Athens, February 29, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias strongly criticizes Vienna’s stance towards Greece, and in particular that of the Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Miklos-Laitner for her constant accusations against Athens, in an interview with the Sunday edition of the Austrian newspaper “Die Presse am Sonntag”, expressing his concern that the Austrian policy could promote the breakup of the European Union.
Austria is a good friend, he likes the Austrian people and the austrian culture very much, however one can not swear and make decisions, trying to “choke” a country-member of the EU and then come to Athens only for “show”, since “we do not need a show, but a policy, which promotes consolidation and defends the unity of Europe”, said the Greek FM, commenting on the refusal of Greece for a visit of the Austrian Interior Minister in Athens.
As he states, he dislikes lies, as was the case in the recent Council of Interior Ministers, where the Austrian minister, coming out of the meeting, claimed that the Greek Interior Minister (deputy minister for Migration Policy Yannis Mouzalas) said that Greece and Frontex are not in a position to protect the border, “something which the Greek minister never said”.
However, such statements were reproduced to bring accusations against Greece, which he does not appreciate. “There can not be isolated actions, but a sensible cooperation between EU states”, N. Kotzias stresses.
According to the Greek Foreign Minister, Austria exerts a policy, which could promote the EU’s breakup, which creates concerns because it took a lot of effort and passion to build the EU and he will not allow it to dissolve within a few weeks or months.
At the Summit in Brussels there were unanimous decisions and he considers it strange, as he said, that decisions taken by police officers to be more important than the decisions of the Heads of States and Governments.
Commenting on the controversial Vienna conference on the Western Balkans, which was convened, extra-institutional and without the presence of Greece, by the Austrian Interior and Foreign ministers – and which caused the harsh criticism from Greece, even from it PM Alexis Tsipras- the head of Greek diplomacy emphasizes that this is not the way to promote good relations.
Ν. Kotzias says that he can not say when will the Greek ambassador to Austria return to Vienna, after having been recalled to Athens for consultations and expresses hope that “the Austrian side will not continue to spread lies and will line with the position of Austrian President Heinz Fischer, who knows exactly what Europe is and what Europe needs”, and for whom he said that if he was Austrian, he would be proud of such a politician.
He also underlines that Greece, with its thousands of islands -which in this case are a source of difficulties, as many are very close to Turkey – is only geographically isolated and not politically, since the European Commission, the European Parliament and 80% of the EU member states side with Greece.
To the question whether Greece will become a “parking for refugees”, he replies that there may be a humanitarian crisis and thousands of people become stranded in Greece, but at the same time the refugees will find other ways to reach the Central and Northern Europe, as they are people who are trying by all means to come to Europe and can not go back to the war in Syria. The US noted the foreign minister, the most technologically developed country in the world, raised the best wall along the Mexican border, behind which there are tens of kilometers of desert, but still 14 million immigrants reached the country, which comes to show that when people want to migrate because of war, hunger and lack of prospects, they always find a way.
Referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Nikos Kotzias observes that she follows a very pragmatic line on refugee policy and that in this there is a better understanding with Greece, while in a recent conversation he had in Berlin with his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, they found the paradoxical fact that neither Greece nor Germany are responsible for the refugee crisis and yet they are the ones more affected.
Finally, the Greek Foreign Minister notes that the refugee problem is very complicated, requires complex, reasonable, democratic answers and not one-dimensional accusations, while the sensible approach would be for the refugees to be received by Turkey directly, so they wouldn’t put their lives at risk in the Aegean.