The threat of Greece being excluded from the European Union’s passport-free Schengen area has disappeared, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras argued on Saturday after the conclusion of a lengthy leaders’ summit in Brussels.
“There are and will be no closed borders,” Tsipras told Parliament, after all 28 EU leaders agreed to hold a separate summit to discuss the refugee crisis with Turkey on March 6.
The Greek prime minister said that his government had taken on the “populist, xenophobic and racist forces in Europe” and would continue to do so.
“We cannot accept responsibility-shy bureaucrats pointing their fingers at us and telling us what to do,” he said. “It is commonly accepted that Greece has done the most and nobody has come forward to challenge this.”
Tsipras also hailed the agreement for NATO to patrol the Aegean as part of the effort to combat refugee trafficking, saying that the deal guaranteed sovereign rights at the same time as ensuring that Greece could no longer be accused of being reluctant to accept help.
The NATO rapid reaction force, known as the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2), is due to begin its patrols under the leadership of German Rear Admiral Jorg Klein in the next few days.
It has been agreed that the Turkish and Greek vessels in the group will only patrol in their countries’ territorial waters.