ATHENS — European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas on Friday briefed the committees on European affairs and public administration in the Greek Parliament on the EU's continuing talks over the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, responding to criticism and concerns from all sides.
Opposition parties criticized the EU for its policies of unequal weight, for not implementing the Juncker Plan on migration, and for turning Greece into a "warehouse of souls", where migrants' cases were not processed in a timely manner.
Concerning the Juncker Plan, Schinas said he was very supportive of it in the past, but called it "too romantic" to succeed. He also took exception to the description of Greece as a "warehouse of souls", saying that it is the "present non-system" that has created this situation.
"What we experienced in Moria or Kale on Lesvos island was because we have a system full of holes, a patchwork system, with non-solutions that produce such phenomena," the Commissioner said. "So new solutions through a new collective framework are called for, unifying everything. Our proposal for screening is not to keep a migrant at the entry points, like the hotspots do now, but to determine through a process whether someone entering the EU constitutes a threat. That person will be fingerprinted and this will allow us to see who enters Europe, and if they are dangerous, to activate all procedures and return that person to the country of origin," he stressed.
Schinas insisted that "Europe will remain an asylum destination – whoever escapes from dictatorships and oppressions will be guaranteed a welcoming asylum in Europe, but whoever is a threat will be returned." If the EU fails to introduce a unified policy, it will benefit traffickers, he added.
Migration & Asylum Minister Notis Mitarachi said that the new pact under discussion must be applied correctly to restrict migration flows, but he also expressed his great concern about the drastic reduction in EU funding for Greece. "The new pact is a noteworthy effort by the European Commission, but the proposals do not adequately address Greece's concerns," he noted.
Mitarachi particularly pointed out the budget allocated to Greece for migration in the 2021-2027 funding period. "Expected funding to Greece is significantly reduced, resulting in danger of disrupting or even drastically reducing programs related to the housing, integration and protection of those applying for asylum and of refugees," he explained.
The government's stance is clear, he said, both for the islands and Thrace, while "Greece cannot lift the migration burden by itself alone."