One day ahead of an EU summit in Brussels to discuss the migration crisis, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that shutting down the Greek border to slow the influx would be illegal and unacceptable.
“It would be neither legal nor politically acceptable to cooperate with third countries in order to close the border to one of our member states,” Juncker said in an interview with Germany’s Bild daily.
“We support the border security on both sides – the Greek and the Macedonian. We will only be successful if we work together more closely and cooperatively and if we do not destroy any trust. We must not risk Schengen and thereby also our domestic freedom,” Juncker said.
“It will take a while before the measures we in Europe have decided upon over the past weeks and months have an effect,” he said, adding that the number of migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey was dropping.
Athens is set to face more pressure from Central European states hoping to block the Balkan refugee route by shutting off Greece. Austria joined the chorus Tuesday, announcing that it would introduce border controls along its southern frontier.
The trend is unpopular with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who plans to push implementation of the EU’s migrant deal with Turkey during the two-day summit.
In the Bild interview, Juncker praised Merkel’s stance, comparing her determination to that of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, a champion of German reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
“Angela Merkel will outlast all of her current critics in office. The European refugee policy that she and I stand for will be successful. It is a sign of political strength to say ‘we will accomplish this’. Everything else means giving up in the face of populists,” he said.