President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, has dismissed proposals to exclude Greece from the open-border Schengen zone.
This, he said, would not solve the migrant crisis threatening the strength and cohesion of the European Union.
His comments followed talks with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens. He is calling for a common, European approach to the crisis.
Greece is on the frontline, with over a million migrants crossing its borders into Europe in the last year.
While Central European leaders have effectively proposed fencing in the country to stem the flow of people, Tusk said more needed to be done to improve the strength of the continent’s external borders.
That, he said, would require more effort from Athens, but also extra support from Greece’s EU partners.
Euronews’ correspondent, Giannisis Stamatis added:
“The Greeks have been heavily criticised, mainly by their central European partners for failing to stop the migrant flows. In this particular issue, however, Athens appears to have the support of the French and the German governments as well as that of the leadership of the EU institutions who dismiss such overtures as xenophobic and contrary to the spirit of a united Europe.”
But Greece, it seems, has more pressing issues on its mind, as political analyst Angelos Koveos told euronews:
“To a great extent it’s a matter of different priorities. The Greek government’s top priority is to get a positive economic progress report from the inspectors of the country’s lenders. Meanwhile, the refugee crisis comes second in importance. To Europe the migrant issue is priority number one.”
Top priority, or not, the fact remains that Athens is under pressure. Some EU member states believe the only effective way to tackle the crisis is to take measures to prevent migrants from leaving Greece.
At an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday (February 18), Tsipras will be hoping to show Brussels that four of the five so-called hot spots are ready. According to the government, the migrant registration centres on the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos and Leros are now operational.
One on the island of Kos has been delayed due to resistance from locals and their mayor.
Tsipras is due to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels later today (February 16). He’ll also enter into talks on the refugee crisis with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.