EU Commissioner Avramopoulos: Alarming Rise of Nationalism in the Balkans

January 28, 2018

ATHENS – Populism, nationalism, and irredentism threaten to “rebalkanize” the Balkan region (i.e., reviving all the conflicts of the past), EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) in an interview.

“It is important that we do not return to the dark past,” the EU commissioner said, and that “the leadership of these countries comprehend it is vital to think and act in a European spirit.”

Avramopoulos noted that “countries like Greece can play a crucial role by building bridges that will bring the West Balkans closer to the European family.”

Asked how the European Commission planned to handle individual countries’ refusal to honor the EU’s compulsory fixed-quota system for the relocation of migrants and asylum seekers, the commissioner said that “the operation of the relocation mechanism is successful”, but noted that “the rights and obligations of members of the European family are not ‘a la carte’.”

He reiterated the view that “the current Dublin Regulation has been cancelled by circumstances” and noted that a proposal he had submitted for a review of the regulation relating to migration issues in the EU calls for a new system that is fair to the EU and its citizens, the refugees, and the countries of origin and transit.

In the interview, Avramopoulos praised the efforts of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the refugee crisis. “Germany has shown Europe and the whole world what can be done by a country based on humanitarian and democratic values” and expressed the hope that the negotiations for a ruling coalition in Germany are concluded the soonest possible.

In terms of whether Brexit would reduce the available funding for refugees, Avramopoulos conceded that “Britain’s departure from the EU creates new facts for Europe’s budget.” The European Commission, he said, “is preparing a proposal where the sectors of migration, border control and border security will be included among the top challenges of the new European budget.”


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