The migration issue and efforts by both the Greek government and the EU to manage the surge of migrant inflows to the Aegean islands is the focus of high-level meetings in Ankara and Athens that began on Thursday and continue to Friday.
In particular, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos paid a visit to Turkey on Thursday for talks in the framework of the EU-Turkey joint statement on migration, and met in Ankara with Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu.
On Friday morning, they are expected to meet with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. According to spokesman of the German Interior Ministry Steve Alter on Wednesday, the talks will focus on boosting collaboration concerning the agreement and on the situation in the Aegean.
Alter said that Seehofer and Avramopoulos will meet with Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chryssochoidis and Alternate Minister for Migration Giorgos Koumoutsakos at 4pm on Friday and are expected to make statements to the press at 4.45pm.
This will be followed by a meeting with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who had chaired a comprehensive ministries-wide meeting on Monday and first announced the expected visits.
France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner – who was scheduled to join the mission – postponed his trip following the attack on a police department in Paris, according to AFP news agency.
PM meeting on Thursday
Meanwhile, on Thursday PM Mitsotakis chaired a smaller ministerial meeting at Maximos Mansion on decongesting the Aegean islands and managing the reception and identification centers.
The meeting resolved that the Ministry of Interior would provide support for municipalities and regions involved in the issue. Special Secretary for reception Manos Logothetis was appointed spokesman for migration/refugee issues.
Participating in the meeting chaired by Mr Mitsotakis were Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chryssochoidis, Interior Minister Takis Theodorikakos, State Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis, Migration Policy Secretary General Patroklos Georgiadis, and Mr Logothethis.
Koumoutsakos in Ankara
Mr Koumoutsakos met with Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu in Ankara on Thursday, where they discussed the latest developments in the migration situation and the effective implementation of the 2016 EU-Turkey Joint Statement on migration.
Also attending the meeting was Deputy Interior Minister Ismail Catakli, while Deputy Foreign Minister Yavuz Kiran was present at the initiative of the Turkish side.
“During this first communication, the Greek side strongly reiterated its position that all sides must fulfill their share of obligations,” the Greek ministry’s statement said.
These include the following: “Turkey must uproot trafficking networks and effectively prevent the creation of new migration pathways to Europe; Greece must boost migrants’ returns to Turkey, as the Greek government has already decided; and, finally, Europe should recognize the burden of the approximately four million refugees and migrants that Turkey has received on its territory,” the statement said.
It was also agreed to form a direct communication channel, at political level, between the two countries, which would work in tandem with the administrative and operational dialog, the ministry said.
East-Med countries in the EU
“This is the first instance of trilateral cooperation on migration between the EU first-reception countries in the Eastern Mediterranean, as a result of an initiative launched by Greece,” Mr Koumoutsakos stated on Thursday. Koumoutsakos was referring to a joint initiative to be presented by Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria at a European level, during next week’s EU Justice and Home Affairs Council in Luxembourg.
Mr Koumoutsakos said that Greece “is taking on a key role for the joint formulation of an effective European migration policy,” and explained that Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria will take coordinated action to persuade their European partners and the European institutions to provide additional support. He said the three Eastern Mediterranean countries will ask for “more European solidarity and responsibility, a fairer distribution of burdens, an effective European returns mechanism and, finally, the full implementation of the EU-Turkey Joint Statement by all the parties involved”.
The intiative will be officially presented with the submission of the specific text to the Justice and Home Affairs Council next week in Brussels.
Source: Athens News Agency