Progress on migration could facilitate Greece's bailout review, officials indicate

TAGS: EU, Migration, Economy

Greek authorities are scrambling to set up screening centers for migrants and refugees as soon as possible as German officials have made it clear to Athens that more efficient management of the refugee crisis could help along creditors’ review of the country’s third bailout, Kathimerini understands.

According to sources, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has indicated to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras that success in tackling the migration crisis could boost the country’s prospects for progress with the review, which Athens hopes could ease the way for debt talks. Combined with a burgeoning debate about Greece’s future in the passport-free Schengen area, the message from Berlin is said to have encouraged action by Greek officials.

A source close to Tsipras who participated in a meeting of government officials on the refugee crisis over the weekend told Kathimerini that the prospect of a “European solution” to the migration crisis and Schengen issue was “becoming increasingly remote” as EU governments face a backlash from their own people about rising migrant arrivals.

Tsipras is expected to meet Merkel on the sidelines of a Syria donors’ conference in London on Thursday where Greece’s response to the refugee crisis is likely to be the key topic of conversation. A broader meeting including Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and key officials from other European countries, among them Austria and the Netherlands, is also probable, sources indicated.

On Monday Tsipras met in Athens with visiting European Home and Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and reassured him that the Defense Ministry, despite initial objections, would actively participate in finding a solution for accommodating thousands of migrants and refugees arriving in Greece. He insisted, however, that others must also share the burden, indicating other European states.

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos is to deliver a press conference Tuesday, explaining how the ministry will become more involved in Greece’s response to the migration crisis in cooperation with authorities on the islands of the eastern Aegean and how the screening centers (or “hot spots”) will be monitored. Kammenos is further expected to provide details about two “relocation centers” for migrants, slated for Attica and Thessaloniki; the centers are to host migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey while they are registered.

As for a European Commission report that found Greece to have “seriously neglected” its border guarding duties, Tsipras noted that the assessment had been based on an inspection by European officials in November, declaring that much has changed since then.