NEWS

Balkan states snub Greece in talks on immigation

TAGS: Migration

Greece has been left out of an unfolding campaign by Balkan countries to forge a coordinated response to a torrent of migrants and asylum seekers fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, Kathimerini understands.

Meanwhile, although officials in Brussels admit that debt-wracked Greece, on the European Union’s external frontier, has had to shoulder an unprecedented burden, sources note overall frustration over the government’s failure to implement an action plan to deal with the problem. Greece may have to face an EU fine over the failure, the same source said.

During a visit to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz called for “coordinated action across Europe” while urging Greece to control its borders more effectively. “It’s also the fault of Greece if there is no support for the refugees there,” the Austrian said.

Also speaking from Skopje, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov pledged his country’s support for FYROM in dealing with mounting pressure while calling for cooperation between the states of the region – but he did not name Greece.

Thinly disguised criticism of Athens came from FYROM Foreign Minister Mitko Cavkov, too, who noted it was “absurd that the problem is caused by an EU member-state.”

Cavkov said that interior ministers from FYROM, Austria, Hungary and Serbia will soon meet in Skopje to decide further action.

In an interview with German newspaper Handelsblatt, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said Greek authorities “are unwilling to record asylum seekers because in that way Greece goes down as their EU entry point.”

The Bulgarian army stepped in Tuesday to buttress the southwestern border with FYROM.

Meanwhile, a much-delayed Athens-based refugee agency, whose creation is a condition for the release of EU funds, should start operating by mid-September, Kathimerini understands.

The new service, which should have been in place by June 2014, will be staffed by the Finance Ministry.

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