Athens backs calls for stricter EU border controls

Greece reacted positively on Wednesday to a proposal by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that the European Union should toughen its border controls in the wake of popular uprisings in several North African countries, which appear to have prompted a wave of immigration.

Interior Ministry sources told Kathimerini that Athens was heartened by the position of the two leaders and is hopeful it will lead to the review of the Dublin II Regulation, which stipulates that asylum applications have to be examined in the country where the applicant entered the EU. Greece feels the rule puts an undue burden on its resources as most asylum seekers and illegal immigrants enter through its borders.

Greece?s position was reiterated by Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, who met in Athens on Wednesday with his Maltese counterpart Tonio Borg. ?We think the conditions have matured for us to examine the Schengen Treaty and especially the Dublin II Regulation,? he said.

Borg added that Malta, where some 1,000 illegal immigrants from Libya have recently arrived, would also be in favor of re-examining the EU?s border and asylum rules.

Italy and France on Tuesday agreed to seek a revision of the Schengen border treaty that permits passport-free travel through Europe. France criticized Italy for granting temporary residency permits to some 20,000 Tunisian migrants.

Berlusconi and Sarkozy signed a joint letter to the EU demanding the Schengen Treaty take into account ?exceptional? situations. ?We want Schengen to survive, but to survive, Schengen must be reformed,? said Sarkozy.

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