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EU in solidarity with Greece over refugee crisis

04 March 2020, 19:17 CET
EU in solidarity with Greece over refugee crisis

Von der Leyen - Mitsotakis - Michel - Photo EC

(EVROS) - The EU made a strong show of support for Greece Tuesday as its leaders were welcomed by Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to review the refugee crisis and tensions at the Greek-Turkish border.

EU Council president Charles Michel, Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and European Parliament president David Sassoli held talks on escalating refugee crisis, as well as the problems on the north western Syrian province of Idlib and the humanitarian consequences for the civilian population on the ground, as well as the situation of Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Greek prime minister Mitsotakis said the visit sent out a clear signal: "Migrants and refugees cannot be used as pawns in a geopolitical game. They are the true victims of these types of policies," he said. He criticised the "free riders" within the European Union "who pass the burden of managing the external borders to those countries who by virtue of geography happen to be placed where they are, while at the same time not assuming any responsibilities in terms of managing this problem."

Now was the time to demonstrate effective burden-sharing, he said, "the whole purpose of putting together Frontex."

Following Greece's request, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency is now getting ready to deploy a 'Rapid Border Intervention Team.' Frontex is preparing the deployment of one offshore patrol vessel and six coastal patrol vessels, two helicopters, one aircraft, and three thermo-vision vehicles. 100 border guards in addition to the current 530 border guards are also to be deployed by Frontex at the land and at the sea borders.

The European Union has also committed to providing financial assistance of EUR 700 million to Greece. This consists of EUR 350 million, which is immediately available, plus an additional EUR 350 million that can be requested as part of an amending budget.

The financial assistance is for migration management generally, for setting-up and managing the infrastructure needed.

Based on a request made by Greece, the EU has also launched the Civil Protection Mechanism. Through this, Greece can receive assistance in terms of medical equipment, medical teams, shelters, tents, blankets, as needed.

Responding to the Greek prime minister, Commission president von der Leyen said those who sought to test Europe's unity are set to be disappointed: "We will hold the line and our unity will prevail. Now is the time for concerted action and cool heads and acting based on our values. Turkey is not an enemy and people are not just means to reach a goal," she said.

EU Council president Michel made clear that there was still in place an agreement with Turkey on migration and that it was very very important to implement the agreement. The EU expected the Turkish side to respect what they promised in the framework of this agreement.

The EU is to hold an extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council chaired by its foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell in Zagreb later this week.

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