JOHANNA MIKL AUSTRIA

Greece “closes its borders” to the Austrian Interior Minister Mikl-Leitner’s after her request to visit Athens

According to Kathimerini.gr, Athens has turned down a request by Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner to visit Greece next week amid growing tensions between the two EU states over Vienna’s strong-arm approach to the handling of Europe’s migrant crisis.

The Greek Foreign Ministry said Austria must first roll back the unilateral measures agreed during a meeting with Balkan states in Vienna on Wednesday, according to the same source.

The meeting was aimed at coordinating border restrictions across the region to limit the migrant flow.

Greece, which was snubbed from the talks, accused Austria of an “unfriendly act.”

On Thursday Greece recalled its ambassador to Vienna.

Greece has recalled its ambassador to Austria amid growing tensions between the two countries over Vienna’s strong-arm approach to the handling of Europe’s migrant crisis.

Enraged at its exclusion from a mini-summit of Balkan states convened by Austria on Wednesday, Athens hit back denouncing what it described as diplomacy that had “roots in the 19th century”.

At the meeting nations along the migrant route agreed to step up restrictions, including closing borders, to stem the number of immigrants flowing into Europe, effectively stranding thousands in Greece.

Issuing a furious statement, the Greek foreign minister, Nikos Kotzias, said Athens had recalled its ambassador “to preserve friendly relations between the states and the people of Greece and Austria”.

“The big problems of the European Union cannot be handled with thoughts, mentalities and supra-institutional initiatives that have their roots in the 19th century,” the statement said. “Such acts undermine the foundations and the process of European unification.”

Speaking before a crucial meeting of European ministers in Brussels on Thursday, the Greek migration minister, Yannis Mouzalas, said Greece would not be left by the rest of the EU to become the “Lebanon of Europe” by hosting millions of migrants and refugees.

“A very large number here will attempt to discuss how to address a humanitarian crisis in Greece that they themselves intend to create,” Mouzalas told reporters. “Greece will not accept unilateral actions. Greece can also carry out unilateral actions. Greece will not accept becoming Europe’s Lebanon, a warehouse of souls, even if this were to be done with major [EU] funding.”

 

Last week, a conference was hosted by the Austrian government in Vienna and attended by countries on the Balkan migration route. The fact that Germany, Greece and the EU weren’t invited to send representatives was received as a signal of disunity within the EU regarding the refugee and migrant crisis for Greece especially.

The German news agency DPA and DW called the Vienna meeting, which was officially entitled “Managing Migration Together,” a “foreclosure signal from Vienna,” and reported Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz as saying that the purpose of the conference is to “send a clear signal that we will reduce the flow (of migrants).”

The Vienna conference was attended by the foreign and interior ministers of Austria, FYROM, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia, in the hope of reaching an agreement between them about restrictions on migration to Europe.

The European Union’s migration commissioner warned Thursday the block’s migration system risks a complete breakdown. Underscoring the deepening EU rifts over the issue, Greece has recalled its ambassador to Austria after not being invited to a migrant meeting.

Speaking after migration talks in Brussels, European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos warned EU member states have just over a week to make progress on the migrant standoff before a summit with Turkey on March 7.

“In the next 10 days, we need tangible and clear results on the ground. Otherwise, there is a danger, a risk that the whole system will completely break down,” said Avramopoulos.

Austria will soon come to realise that its behaviour during the refugee crisis has been an enormous mistake, Greek Minister of Immigration Policy Ioannis Mouzalas said in an exclusive interview with EurActiv Greece.

Sources: kathimerini.gr, EurActiv, Guardian.Com, Sputnik, DW.de

Photo credit: Flickr

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