NEWS

Sensitivity to be shown on tough issue

” Preserving human rights» is one of the basic parameters of immigration policy and the phenomenon of illegal immigration, said Prime Minister Costas Simitis in a letter to his Spanish counterpart, Jose-Maria Aznar, in view of the upcoming EU summit in Seville. The Greek premier will be attending the Seville meeting with the aim of ensuring that it does not simply decide on measures to halt illegal immigration. The four Greek positions can be condensed as follows: a unified EU policy on immigration and asylum; smooth assimilation of immigrants into European societies; assistance to countries bearing the brunt of illegal immigration due to geographical position; and aid to countries of origin so that they can stem illegal immigration at its source. In his letter to the Spanish premier, Simitis attempts to avoid a narrow «Fortress Europe» approach. «We need to be careful,» he said, «that tensions are not raised in sections of our society which come from third countries. Moreover, we must acknowledge that, as living and security conditions worsen, as conflicts become more intense and poverty deepens in many places on the planet, so will the citizens of those countries continue to seek, by every means legal or illegal, a better future in our countries.» In the letter to his Spanish counterpart, the Greek premier makes four proposals toward establishment of a common immigration policy: 1. Confidence-building measures to persuade European citizens that «an integrated policy giving an answer to the issue of immigration to Europe as a unified geographical unit» is in progress. 2. A realistic approach so that the European Union tackles the issue «in a socially responsible fashion and with sensitivity toward racism and xenophobia and the preservation of human rights.» 3. As certain member states, such as Greece, are combating illegal immigration on unequal terms, it seeks the help of its EU partners in «forging a substantial common policy to deal with the phenomenon in the spirit of solidarity.» Simitis raises the issue of guarding the sea border, which is particularly important for the Union so that it can deal with not only illegal immigration, but also ensure the safety of shipping and combat crime. 4. EU aid to third countries should be linked with the implementation of practices preventing illegal immigration. However, Greece is interested in the fact that many heads of state are discussing the precise contribution from the Union budget so as to share the burden among the member states. Greece is targeting an increase in EU funding for those countries that are on the receiving end of the largest flow of immigrants. Of particular interest to Greece is the European border police, which will involve delimiting the borders of the Union «by land, sea and air.» Simitis’s agenda for the Seville summit will, as he states in the letter to Jose-Maria Aznar, aim at helping «Europe become an area with real security, freedom and justice.» Deputy Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis, along with other ministries, is examining the final wording of Greece’s positions and is expected to present them within days.