European Council President Donald Tusk is due in Athens on Tuesday for talks with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on the refugee crisis ahead of the leaders’ summit in Brussels later this week, at which the Greek government hopes to prove it has made significant progress in improving its ability to register and house migrants.
The meeting comes a day after the leaders of the Visegrad Four countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) held talks with the heads of Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) primarily aimed at stemming the flow of refugees and migrants from Greece to Central Europe.
Athens is under pressure not only from these countries but also other EU member-states who believe that taking measures to prevent migrants from leaving Greece is the only effective way to tackle the crisis.
Tsipras, however, hopes to show at Thursday’s summit in Brussels that four of the five so-called hot spots are ready. The centers for registering refugees on Lesvos, Chios, Samos and Leros are the ones that are close to completion. The one on Kos has been held up by resistance from locals and the island’s mayor.
Two transit centers at Schisto in Athens and Diavata in Thessaloniki are also under construction.
In Brussels, Tsipras will take part in a meeting between 11 EU leaders and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to discuss the steps that Greece’s eastern neighbor should be taking. Government sources said there will also be a separate meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Tsipras and Davutoglu.
In Prague, the Visegrad Four leaders discussed offering FYROM and Bulgaria help to guard their borders, while questioning whether the EU is doing enough.
“We are aware of the risks and negative consequences of any potentially emerging new dividing lines in Europe,” they said in a joint statement. “We are determined to work actively and resolutely to prevent… new dividing lines.”
However, in comments to German newspaper Stuttgarter Zeitung, Merkel questioned the usefulness of the fence being built by FYROM on its border with Greece.
“The construction of a fence in FYROM, which is not an EU member, while not caring what emergency situation this will create in Greece does not constitute European behavior, nor does it solve our problem,” she said.