NEWS

Mitsotakis to meet Merkel, Erdogan due in Brussels amid migration crisis

COSTIS P. PAPADIOCHOS, YIANNIS SOULIOTIS

TAGS: Turkey, Migration, EU

Amid the new migration crisis at Greece’s land border with Turkey, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is due in Berlin on Monday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who provoked the crisis by declaring that Ankara would no longer guard the European Union’s border, is due in Brussels for talks with EU officials.

Mitsotakis had not been taken aback by Erdogan’s move to effectively suspend the EU-Turkey migration deal signed in 2016 as he had been threatening to “open the borders” for months, Kathimerini understands.

When Greek Foreign Ministry and state intelligence sources confirmed that Erdogan had made good on his threat on February 28, an emergency session was called and the decision taken to crack down at the Greek-Turkish land border. Mitsotakis also reached out to European leaders including European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, who subsequently flew to Evros last week to underline the EU’s support for Greece.

Mitsotakis will seek to broaden that international backing during his scheduled meeting with Merkel on Monday. According to sources, he is expected to focus on the common European asylum policy currently in the making and press for a fairer distribution of the burden across the EU.

In his talks in Brussels meanwhile, Erdogan is expected to demand more EU support for Turkey’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis.

Erdogan’s decision to visit Brussels came just a few hours after EU foreign ministers meeting in Croatia criticized Turkey, saying it was using the migrants’ desperation “for political purposes.”

Mitsotakis struck a similar tone in an interview with CNN late on Friday, referring to “a conscious attempt by Turkey to use migrants and refugees as geopolitical pawns to promote its own interests.” He added that the EU-Turkey deal signed in 2016 was “dead” but that Greece remained committed to guarding its borders. “We’re not the ones escalating this conflict but we have every right... to protect our sovereign borders,” he said.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer on Saturday defended Greece’s right to secure its land border with Turkey, while warning against the destabilizing effect of “misled” migrants seeking to cross into the EU. “The United States… finds the current situation to be unsustainable, unacceptable,” Palmer said during a visit to Greece’s northern port of Alexandroupoli. “The uncontrolled movement of thousands of people who have been misled into believing that the road to Europe is open is fundamentally destabilizing, it’s unsustainable. It needs to change,” he said.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Sunday’s Kathimerini, Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri confirmed that the EU’s border monitoring agency would bolster its presence at the Greek-Turkish land border with an additional 100 guards. Leggeri said he received telephone calls from Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis and Shipping and Island Policy Minister Yiannis Plakiotakis at the outset of the border crisis, noting that this allowed Frontex “to move quickly and win time.” He added that an action plan would be drafted to increase the number of migrant returns to Turkey.

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