It took Greece’s political leaders more than eight hours on Friday to agree on a joint statement that committed the government to stepping up its efforts to tackle the refugee crisis but also called on the European Union to provide more unity and assistance.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, New Democracy’s Kyriakos Mitsotakis, PASOK’s Fofi Gennimata and Stavros Theodorakis of To Potami signed the document after their lengthy discussions in the presence of President Prokopis Pavlopoulos. Union of Centrists leader Vassilis Leventis refused to put his name to the statement, while Communist Party leader Dimitris Koutsoubas left before the end of the discussion.
The agreement makes it clear that the government will live up to the pledges it has made to the EU and will ask for more assistance from the Union’s border agency Frontex, as well as NATO, in trying to prevent trafficking in the Aegean. It also obliges the coalition to boost the facilities for refugees as well as migrants not eligible for asylum who are awaiting repatriation.
The statement also called on the EU to ensure that all member states live up to their commitments under the refugee relocation scheme and to put more pressure on Turkey to stem the flow of migrants and refugees leaving its shores.
“Even after some delay, the government is starting to adapt its strategy to reality,” said Mitsotakis, who referred to the agreement as a “minimum strategic framework.”
“I have serious reservations about how capable the government and the prime minister are of rising to the occasion,” added the New Democracy leader.
PASOK chief Gennimata left the meeting insisting that the best way for Greece to address the current situation is the creation of a unity government. Sources said that she insisted upon this point during the discussions at the Presidential Mansion. Gennimata is said to have asked for a reference to the need for a cross-party administration to be included in the statement. Her request was rejected but her proposal was included as a footnote.
“Our appetite for a national consensus does not mean we will tolerate mistakes and inaction,” said Gennimata, adding that despite the failings of the EU over the refugee crisis Greece should not consider vetoing summit conclusions as this would “isolate” the country.
Potami leader Theodorakis said he felt that a number of the party’s proposals were adopted during the meeting, including making a clear separation between refugees and economic migrants and providing specific facilities for unaccompanied minors. But he was not able to convince Tsipras and the other leaders to back his suggestion for appointing a new minister that would be responsible for coordinating the government’s migration strategy.