ATHENS – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had a meeting with European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas and Euroean Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson on Thursday at the Maximos Mansion.
Mitsotakis underlined that Greece significantly relies on European solidarity to address the refugee and migration problem and referred to the Greek proposals for a European return mechanism, while insisting on the need for a reasonable sharing of the burdens.
On his part, Schinas referred to the prospects for European solidarity and the new asylum pact being prepared by the EU. Johansson acknowledged that Greece was under great pressure, pointing out that this is a European problem and not just a problem facing Greece alone.
Immediately after the private meeting at the prime minister’s office, another meeting followed with the participation of ministers, the head of the diplomatic bureau of the Prime Minister, Alexandra Papadopoulou, the head of the European Union issues bureau in the prime minister’s general secretariat Dimitris Mitropoulos, and the national coordinator for unaccompanied children, Irini Agapidaki.
The prime minister said: “I find it very important that you chose Athens for your first visit, given the developments in the region. I think it is very important that you will visit Ankara on Friday and, as we will have the opportunity to discuss, Greece strongly relies on European solidarity to deal with migrants and refugees. This is a matter that has a clear European dimension, it is not a Greek-Turkish issue, it is a matter for the whole of the European Union. We are really looking forward to your help and your tangible suggestions for that.”
In reply to Johansson, he said: “We want to be an important partner because we have a significant added value to offer. We have already begun presenting some ideas for a European return mechanism. Of course, we will ask for a review of the Dublin system and a reasonable burden-sharing in dealing with this problem. The ultimate goal should be a common European asylum system and we are ready to work with you on ideas and proposals to achieve this goal.”
Schinas stressed that “we have to start from where the problem exists, and the problem at this time lies in this part of the European Union.” He welcomed the opportunity to discuss the “situation as it is” with the Greek prime minister and interior minister, as well as the prospects for European solidarity and the preparation of a new EU pact on asylum. “Our intention is to discuss three issues: the pact, solidarity, the situation as it is today and – of course – the EU-Turkey agreement – which are critical to the organised management of migratory flows,” he added.
Johansson stressed the important steps the government has taken and said: “We have this very difficult task of unblocking the situation, finding a common European policy on migration and asylum. Every week that this is missing, there is a high cost, especially for a country like Greece, which is under a lot of pressure, because this is a European problem, not just a problem for Greece.”
The Commissioner also stressed that “refugees are suffering and [the] common trust in the Union is being shaken. So it is a very urgent matter to find a new way forward. I have to say that I am very pleased that the new government is taking many important steps for migrants, for legislation, and for presenting its proposals. So, I know that Greece will be an important partner in shaping the new pact.”