EU must help Macedonia seal border with Greece: Slovak PM
(BRATISLAVA) - Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico vowed Wednesday to push the European Union to stem the influx of refugees into the bloc by sealing the border of non-member Macedonia with Greece.
EU member "Greece isn't functioning, we need to stop migrants on another line. And we came here to countries that are on this line to help," Fico said Wednesday during a visit to Macedonia's Gevgelija border crossing with Greece.
Fico added that he would raise the issue with EU partners at a Monday summit with Turkey.
The move would leave Athens with rapidly rising numbers of refugees arriving from Turkey while effectively excluding it from Europe's passport-free Schengen zone.
Set to win his third term in a weekend general election after having centred his campaign on anti-refugee policies, Fico told a Slovak daily on Monday that "we are coming to a moment when Greece is likely to be sacrificed."
Along with regional allies the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, Slovakia has vowed to help Bulgaria and Macedonia seal their borders with Greece, should Athens fail to stem the tide of refugees from Turkey by mid-March.
The EU said Tuesday it was "very concerned" about the fact Macedonian police fired tear gas at hundreds of refugees and migrants -- including women and children -- who tried to break through the border fence on Monday.
Some 10,000 people mainly from Syria and Iraq have become trapped on the border after a spate of travel restrictions imposed by Balkan states and Austria.
These moves have triggered a swift build-up along the Greece-Macedonia border with Athens warning that the number of people "trapped" could reach up to 70,000 by next month.
Having argued that jihadists masquerading as refugees could slip into the EU, Fico insisted Wednesday he would "continue to emphasise the security aspect of this crisis."
NATO's top general warned Tuesday that Russia and Syria "are deliberately weaponizing migration in an attempt to overwhelm European structures and break European resolve".
As Slovakia gears up for its first six-month stint as rotating EU president starting in July, Fico said that the "EU will either get the migration crisis under control or collapse" in 2016.
More than a million people, mostly refugees and migrants from war-torn Syria and Iraq, arrived in the EU last year amid the worst crisis of its kind in Europe since World War II.