Athens, November 16, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
Even more significance is added to the upcoming visit of Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras to Turkey, in light not just of addressing the refugee flows towards Greece from the Turkish coast, but also of the new situation created by the terrorist attacks of jihadists in Paris.
So, inevitably more “weight” is added to the Greek request for the creation of «hot spots» in the territory of Turkey, in order to deal with the refugee problem at its source, and more importantly outside the european borders.
Consultations between Greece, Europe and Turkey are taking place in the shadow of the rapid developments in Paris and after the scenes of horror from the barrage of terrorist attacks, which triggered both the nationalist debate for closed borders, and at the same time automatically upgraded the Greek proposal for the identification of refugees in Turkey, with direct flights to Central Europe.
The prime minister will be accompanied by foreign minister Nikos Kotzias and deputy minister for immigration policy, Giannis Mouzalas.
The reality of the refugee problem and the effort for its different management, constitutes a basic motive of the visit of Tsipras next week in Turkey, according to sources in the government.
The Greek side has made its position clear that no effort can effectively provide a solution for the refugee crisis, without a consultation between the EU and Turkey.
In this direction, Tsipras welcomed as a positive development the decisions on an EU-Turkey summit, which has been scheduled for November 29, as was first revealed by IBNA, and the need for dialogue and understanding with the Turkish government.
The situation in numbers
The Greek prime minister, after the two-day summit on migration and the informal meeting of EU member states for the refugee, in Valletta Malta, used a phrase to describe how the situation around the refugee flows is being formed, saying that “the Western world, Europe, is facing the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War”.
In 2015 it is estimated from Turkey have passed to European soil 640,000 persons. So far, from Greece and Italy (where it’s been another 140,000) have relocated 48 in Finland, 19 in France, 12 in Spain and 30 in Luxembourg. Only part of the total of 28 EU countries have offered 3,500 resettlement places, against a target of 160,000 that has been set by the European Commission.
At the informal summit, Tsipras highlighted the need for: first, to increase the number of “reception slots” in EU countries, in order to pair the number of refugees who will be absorbed by each country with the actual sizes of the refugee flows. Second, for all 28 countries to take responsibility, and third, for it to be binding.
Towards a different management of the issue
Given the above facts, government sources indicate that it is obvious that this issue requires a different management, and that is what the Greek side is seeking.
It has been noted that the management should include at least two pillars: The eradication of human trafficking networks and the refugee resettlement process in European countries from Turkish territory. Turkey, for its part, has asked for financial support for guarding its border and the creation of reception centers, as well as other measures such as the relaxation of visa for Turkish citizens to enter the EU, the “unfreezing” of the accession process of Turkey country in the EU, and the adoption of EU-Turkey summits.
EU-Turkey cooperation with concrete results
The same sources emphasise that Greece considers that “the agreement between the EU and Turkey must move in these directions, ensuring concrete results”.
In particular, they said that support to Turkey for guarding its borders should be linked to the effective fighting of trafficking circuits.
Also, support for the establishment of reception centers should be linked to the creation of refugee resettlement mechanisms in Europe, directly from turkish territory.
As for the loosening of the visa regime, it should be linked to a readmission agreement between the EU and Turkey (the readmission agreement provides that those who enter Europe illegally from the turkish territory must return there. Such agreement currently exists between Greece and Turkey, but it is not applied).
As regards the accession process of Turkey, Greece supports it “unfreezing” but in a coordinated manner. This effort must take into account the positions of Cyprus, which among other things, requests the lifting of the blockade imposed by Turkey in transportations from the ports and airports of the former.
The government sources stress that Greece will use its contacts with Turkey, participating actively in the agenda of the EU-Turkey summit, scheduled for 29 November in Brussels, and point out moreover, that with this road map, Greece is implementing the target it has set, to take an active role in the agreement between the EU and Turkey.
Along the same lines, Greece has requested and received assurances that is would receive detailed knowledge of any European initiative for Turkey, such as the one of the European Commission, with the relevant 17-point Action Plan. This information concerns the European officials contacts with the Turkish Government, but also their preparation.
It has also been made clear by the Greek side that it will not enter into any discussion on joint patrols with Turkey, as the issue relates to the sovereign rights of the country. As noted – according to information – the prime minister in his contacts on the sidelines of the Malta Summit, said that it is like having joint patrols of German and Turkish police in a German city.
The Greek side, according to the same information, has received the commitment that this matter will not be raised again and that the wording will be replaced by “coordinated action”, which leaves no room for misinterpretation on sovereignty issues.
In any case, Greece is sending the message that “the policy of the fence” and transforming countries, either within the European territory or outside it, into warehouses for people, in addition to being incompatible with European principles, it can’t solve the problem of refugee flows; on the contrary it threatens the cohesion of Europe.
In this light, the government emphasises that for the radical tackling of the refugee issue, in addition to tackling the trafficking networks and the resettlement of refugees from the countries neighboring to Syria, there can only be addressed by dealing with the factors that cause the refugee and migratory flows. This was one of the key messages highlighted by the Greek prime minister at the summit of Valetta.
The bilateral issues and the Cyprus problem
The Greek strategy on bilateral issues takes into account the fact that our region is the focus of three crises (economic, humanitarian crisis and destabilisation). In this perspective, Greece, as reported by the same sources, supports the prospect to remain open and operate all diplomatic channels between the two countries. At the same time, cooperation in daily politics issues should be strengthened, in areas such as transportation, energy, tourism, trade and economic relations, education, culture etc.
As regards the Cyprus issue, the pursuit of the Greek side, which is in constant and close consultation with Cyprus, is to emphasise the need for Turkey to help decisively in a just and viable settlement.