Flurry of diplomacy on migrants

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday appealed to conservative MEPs to recognize the fact that illegal immigration is a European Union problem as Interior Minister Pro-kopis Pavlopoulos accompanied Jacques Barrot, the European commissioner for justice and security, on a tour of Aegean islands that host migrant reception centers. Meanwhile Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis issued an official response to comments made during an exclusive interview for Kathimerini by Turkey’s minister for European affairs, Egemen Bagis, according to which Ankara will not honor a bilateral agreement with Greece providing for repatriation of migrants. «We realize that Turkey has a problem with illegal immigrants. Our intention is to help Turkey sign its own repatriation pacts with the countries with which it faces the same problem,» Bakoyannis said, referring to countries from which many would-be migrants originate such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. Karamanlis, addressing a summit of the center-right European People’s Party in the coastal suburb of Vouliagmeni, said that the burgeoning influx of migrants from these and other war-torn states was a problem for the EU as a whole. «Our country is shouldering a greater burden than other European states but the problem concerns us all, as illegal immigrants are coming to all the countries of Europe,» the Greek premier said. He also stressed the need for «active solidarity and the fair distribution of responsibility in tackling [the problem].» At around the same time as Karamanlis was delivering his speech, Pavlopoulos was accompanying Barrot on a tour of the eastern Aegean, showing the commissioner the islands on which Greece has set up reception facilities to accommodate thousands of migrants arriving from the Turkish coast in smugglers’ boats. Barrot reportedly expressed his understanding for Greece’s difficult predicament and underlined the need for agreements with migrants’ countries of origin and transit countries such as Turkey aimed at repatriating economic migrants.