The internationalization of the migration issue is part of the government’s actions to tackle the migration problem inherited from the previous government, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said, adding that the prime minister will also pursue this at the next EU summit at 17 October.
He explained that, as the Prime Minister himself has said, inclusion in the Schengen area, apart from the benefits includes certain obligations. Within them is the equitable distribution of the burden of the first host countries, such as Greece, Italy, and Spain, with regard to the overall burden of refugee and migration flows. He added that in the Prime Minister’s discussions with the governments of France, Germany and the Netherlands it was concluded that there is solid ground for a better distribution.
Mr Petsas noted that the cabinet decided yesterday on coordinated actions and solutions to a problem that has changed from refugee to migrant.
Responding to a question on the EU-Turkey Agreement, Petsas said that as of 2016 the EU-Turkey Joint Declaration has not been implemented to the extent it should on both sides. In this context, Turkey must do more to control traffickers and we must increase the returns of non-asylum seekers, something the previous government did not do. We should look again at the margins left by the joint statement.
Asked to comment how the closed pre-departure centers, which were announced yesterday after the cabinet meeting, will operate, Mr Petsas said that those who are not entitled to asylum or protection will be transferred to closed centers and will not be allowed to move around freely. He explained that people who have entered the country illegally cannot have the same status as refugees entitled to protection.
Always on the same subject, Mr Petsas said that so far the government has not compiled a list of safe countries regarding the return of refugees. The compilation of the list has to do with deterring traffickers. Other EU countries have done so, soon the government will make its own list after what was decided yesterday at the cabinet. He reiterated, however, that the refugee issue has now been transformed into a migration problem. “It makes no sense to hide behind our finger; this is a policy that cannot go far. We want the understanding of our partners in the EU on a difficult problem”.
We are expecting tangible actions from Turkey
Staying on the subject of Turkey, following Kyriako Mitsotakis’ meeting with Tayyip Erdogan in New York, the government spokesman said that “we expect to see tangible actions in two areas: we expect the flows to decline. We’ve had increased flows in recent months; in the last two to three days since the New York meeting, there appears to be a decline we hope will consolidate”.
In the second area, he added, Turkey’s provocative actions at Cyprus’s EEZ and continental Shelf, as well as interventions in the two communities’ discussions (such as Turkish officials’ statements on Varosha), must be stopped so that they (discussions) can continue unhindered.
Prime Minister’s meetings with political leaders
Mr Petsas announced that the prime minister would soon have a series of meetings with the leader of the main opposition, Alexis Tsipras, as well as the other political leaders. He said, however that he would not convene a Council of Political Leaders.
The main topic of the meetings will be the vote of the Greeks abroad, which, as the prime minister has said, should be voted not only by the 200 MPs needed, in order to be in effect in the next election, but by all 300. In this context, the prime minister will seek consensus. Even if SYRIZA insists on its own “offensive and unconstitutional proposal, there will be agreement with the other parties”. Mr Petsas, however, expressed the hope that SYRIZA could also give up its position and contribute to the settlement of the matter. “We will seek every possible consensus for the vote of Greeks abroad. It is an obligation of the state and a constitutional requirement to ensure that those who are registered have access to the ballot”, he said.
Mr Petsas has left open the possibility that the prime minister’s meetings with political leaders would also discuss migration, also in search of common ground.
Conscious extermination of the middle class by the SYRIZA government
Asked about Paul Thomsen’s recent statements (that the previous government overdid it with the primary surplus), the government spokesman said that “I do not want to comment on Mr Thomsen’s statements. Mr Tsipras and Mr Haritsis can comment on them if they want. However, it is a confirmation of our position that there has been a conscious choice to eliminate the middle class through the realization of exhaustively high primary surpluses”.
A unified approach to the Western Balkans’ accession perspective
Responding to a question regarding Mitsotakis-Zaev’s Meeting in New York, Mr Petsas said Greece was in favor of the Western Balkans’ accession prospects. He added that it is necessary to consider at what pace all countries will continue. The EU’s position is for the Western Balkan countries to move forward together, but this issue will also be discussed at the EU Summit. As for the Prime Ministers’ visits, Mr Petsas replied that “it is too early to exchange visits”; he noted, however, that “as far as I know Mr Zaev often visits Thessaloniki and Halkidiki”.
On the first formal meeting of a Greek Prime Minister with the President of Kosovo, Hakim Thaci, in New York, and whether the Greek government will reject the request for recognition (as the Serbian Prime Minister said), Petsas said that “Greece is a country that is confidently participating in all the great discussions. The two countries of Kosovo and Serbia must first find a common ground and form a common position themselves, and then move on from there”.
Pompeo and Moschovisi in Athens
With regard to Moscovici’s visit, Mr Petsas said that “this is his last visit as a commissioner. Discussion with partners on the post-bailout evaluation is ongoing. The government is stepping up to implement the reforms that the previous government had not made”.
Finally, asked what benefits the country will gain from renewing its defence agreement with the US, he asked to wait for the announcements that will be made after the meeting of the Prime Minister with the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who will visit Greece on 5 -6 October.
In response to a question, he said that it was a matter of days before there would be a discussion on the establishment of a Pre-Trial Committee regarding Dimitris Papagelopoulos./ibna