ATHENS – President of the European People’s Party (EPP) Manfred Weber said he was in Greece “to take stock of the migration situation in the Mediterranean” during a visit that included meeeting with the premier, ministers, and a tour of facilities for migrants.
While meeting with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Weber thanked him “for Greece’s work protecting the European external border.” In Twitter comments ahead of a Special European Council meeting (EUCO, Feb 9-10), the EPP leader said the Greek government has “restored order despite the complexity and scale of the migration challenge.” The Special EUCO is an opportunity to make progress, he noted.
Earlier, Weber had visited a temporary migrant reception facility in Schisto (Piraeus area) of the Migration & Asylum ministry, and met with Migration & Asylum Mininister Notis Mitarachi at the ministry’s Keranis Building in Athens. “High levels of arrivals have put a huge strain on reception facilities throughout the EU,” Weber said in a tweet following their meeting, and “leaders at EUCO have to deliver on Europe’s migration challenge.”
In a statement by the ministry, Mitarachi called for an updated European legislation on migration and for collaboration with countries of passage and origin. “There must also be obligatory, enforced solidairty on relocations within the European Union, a common European protection space,” Mitarachi said.
Weber spoke of “hundreds of thousands of illegal people in the European territory.” In 2022, he said, a total of 340,000 people whose cases were reviewed legally and denied asylum had to leave the EU, but only 40,000 did so. He called this a great problem, resulting from the lack of implementation of current rules and legislation.
The EPP leader also paid a visit to the Citizen Protection Ministry, where he met with Minister Takis Theodorikakos. The latter briefed Weber on the expansion of the fence along the border with Turkey in the Evros area and the ‘Akritas’ plan to protect the border, which was that of the European Union as well. The fence extension will be 35 km long and will cost 100 million euros, Theodorikakos said, and called for funding from the EU.