Athens, February 25, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Zacharias Petrou
Greek Prime Minister announced in parliament on Wednesday evening that a meeting of political party leaders chaired by the President of the Hellenic Republic, Procopis Pavlopoulos, will be called to discuss the refugee crisis.
The meeting will take place before a crucial EU Council Summit with the participation of Turkey to address the huge flow of refugees crossing the Aegean from Turkey to Greece in order to eventually travel to Germany and other EU member-states albeit to a lesser extent.
Alexis Tsipras said he will seek the widest possible consensus at the political party leaders’ meeting and request that all parties agree that Greece pushes EU counterparts to share the burden of the refugee and migrant flows.
“Some don’t realize that the common rules either apply to all or they don’t exist,” the Greek PM said. “Also, agreements are either implemented by all or they don’t exist. It’s shameful for the decisions taken by the EU heads of state to be annulled by some sub-gatherings,” he added, noting Greece will demand from its partners to act responsibly.
The foreign and interior ministers of nine countries along the so-called “Balkan Route” – excluding Greece – met on Wednesday to form a common strategy in tackling the refugee flows. The ministers agreed to forge a “close alliance” to drastically reduce refugee flows, Austria’s conservative Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said.
The countries at the meeting agreed to coordinate their actions on refugee policy and adopt a common stance from here on, including fully supporting the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and joining to exert pressure for a European solution at the EU interior ministers’ council on Thursday.
The Greek government issued a demarche to Austria over its decision to limit the number of asylum seekers it will accept, as well as the number of migrants that can pass through its territory in transit. Greece also accused the Central European country of making a “unilateral” move by calling the Vienna summit.
Alexis Tsipras spoke with German Chancellor Angeka Merkel over the telephone on Wednesday to express displeasure at the failure of the European Union to keep to the agreements made on the handling of the refugee crisis, including that none of the EU member-states should take any unilateral action concerning refugees until the meeting with Turkey takes place on March 6.
Germany has backed Greece on the refugee crisis, placing pressure on Turkey to stem the flows of refugees. Merkel and Tsipras agreed on Wednesday on the need to intensify the effort to implement all the agreements, as well as the immediate start of the NATO mission aiming to dismantle the human trafficking rings and reduce refugee flows.
A NATO mission to control migrant traffickers in the Aegean could begin on Friday, German defence ministry spokesman Michael Henjes revealed Wednesday.
“Greece is part of the solution that will offer help, but it will not accept unilateral actions from anyone”, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said earlier on Wednesday as he welcomed UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
Alexis Tsipras also made a phone call to main opposition New Democracy party leader Kyriacos Mitsotakis to discuss the crisis which is spiraling out of control as developments rapidly unfold.
As many European countries prepare to close off their borders to Greece, trapping thousands of refugees in the country, the heads of Greece’s two largest parties reportedly agreed to search for common ground and try to formulate a common stance and strategy on the issue.
More than 12,000 refugees and migrants are trapped in Greece as the country’s northern borders and the port of Piraeus have been turned into unofficial hot-spots for refugees and immigrants arriving from the Aegean. The rise in the number of arrivals also means there is a greater number of refugees and migrants on the Greek islands.