Arriving at his first European Council summit in Brussels on Thursday, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that Greece and the European Union should not be held hostage to Turkey over migration and should have a “Plan B” in place to respond to a possible new refugee crisis.
“The migratory flows over the past months have increased substantially,” he said, saying the issue “needs to be addressed at a European level.”
“Greece and Europe cannot be blackmailed by Turkey on this issue and the EU needs to demonstrate much more solidarity vis-a-vis Greece in managing this issue, in coming up with a new migration and asylum package but also coming up with an emergency Plan B in case the current crisis turns into an emergency,” Mitsotakis told reporters ahead of a European Council summit in Brussels.
Although Brexit and Turkey’s offensive in northeastern Syria dominated the summit, Turkish prospecting for hydrocarbons off Cyprus was also expected to be discussed along with measures to tackle a newly resurgent migration crisis.
Commenting on a possible Plan B for migration, Greek government officials said that if the EU’s actions do not stop migrant flows from Turkey to Europe, then Brussels will have to come up with other measures. They also underlined the need for all EU states to agree to share the burden of responsibility.
Meanwhile in Athens, Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis presented draft legislation to governing New Democracy MPs that aims to speed up asylum applications and increase the pace of returns and deportations, in a bid to reduce the number of migrants and refugees trapped in Greece by lengthy bureaucratic procedures.
Chrysochoidis said that as part of the effort to decongest overcrowded camps on the islands, 20,000 people will be transferred to the mainland – 10,000 at hotels and another 10,000 at camps providing improved living conditions.
Commenting on Cyprus, Mitsotakis said Greece supports the decision taken at the general council level regarding targeted measures and sanctions against people and corporations engaged in illegal prospecting within Cyprus’ territorial waters.
He also said Greece supports the path of North Macedonia and Albania toward EU membership provided that they “fully respect the international deals they have signed, they adhere to the rule of law and of course respect minority rights.”