Turkey is using the migration crisis as a lever to pressure the European Union, but the EU is also failing to do its part in supporting frontline countries like Greece, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper in a wide-ranging interview published on Tuesday.
“It cannot go on like this,” Mitsotakis said when asked about Athens’ response to the sharp increase in migrant and refugee arrivals on the Aegean islands and through Greece’s northeastern land border with Turkey in recent months.
“It is obvious what is happening here: Turkey is trying to use migration as a lever to pressure Europe and achieve concessions,” Mitsotakis said in translated comments. “I frankly told [Turkish] President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan that he cannot abuse migrants and refugees as instruments if he wants to have good neighborly relations with Greece.”
“I know what I'm dealing with,” Mitsotakis added. “To give you an example: If we call the Turkish Coast Guard lately and point out that a boat with migrants has left the Turkish coast, we get no reaction. This is unacceptable because it violates the EU-Turkey refugee agreement.”
The Greek prime minister was also critical of the European Union’s reaction to the upsurge in arrivals, saying that Europe is “ignoring the problem.”
“Europe regards arrival countries such as Greece as convenient parking lot for refugees and migrants. Is that European solidarity? No! I will no longer accept this,” Mitsotakis told Handelsblatt.
On the issue of his recently elected center-right government’s plans for getting the Greek economy back on its feet, Mitsotakis said that he expects Greece to be a “different country” in two years’ time.
“I think the picture has already changed. Greece looks different today than six months ago. If you walk the streets here in Athens, you will notice the change. The people are more confident. They feel that the country is moving in the right direction,” Mitsotakis said in the interview.
“The yield on 10-year Greek government bonds is 1.4 percent. It was 3.8 percent eight months ago. We can even refinance our money market paper at negative interest rates. The investors are returning. We are leaving the crisis behind us. Greece no longer asks for help, but is a country that participates on an equal footing in the debate on the major European and global issues,” the Greek prime minister added.