MEPs meeting in Brussels instead of Strasbourg because of Covid-19 considerations have said that there should be no repeat of the 2015 refugee crisis and condemned Turkey for using the plight of refugees for political gain.
In a special Europarliament session held to discuss growing crisis on the Greek-Turkish border Members of the European Parliament (MEP) called on the European Union to help Greece to regulate its border with Turkey and to also ensure that migrants who had a right to asylum were granted it.
The Europarliament said in a statement before the session that “since the beginning of March, thousands of people have been trying to cross the Greek-Turkish border by land and sea, following (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan’s announcement that his country will no longer prevent them from doing so, as it did in 2016 in exchange for European Union (EU) financial assistance.”
A large number of speakers criticised Turkey’s President Erdogan’s actions which effectively were using people’s suffering for his own political advantage. Ylva Johansson, the European Commission’s Commissioner of Home Affairs and Croatian Presidency of the Council were also present at the debate.
A Europarliament statement on the debate said: “Many also underlined that the 2015 refugee crisis should not be repeated and insisted that the EU needs to update its common rules on asylum”.
Some MEPs argued for reversing the EU-Turkey joint statement of 2016 in which the EU gave financial support to Turkey in exchanging for its curtailing the flow of migrants into Europe. Others expressed concern over the deteriorating conditions of the migrants on the border between Greece and Turkey.
Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis travelled to Vienna to meet on Tuesday with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
Mr Mitsotakis thanked the Austrian leader for the humanitarian aid his country had given to migrants in Greece and on its border with Turkey.
“The personnel and technical means that you offered will help to prevent any attempt to enter the border from Turkey,” said Mr Mitsotakis.
He added that tensions on the land border with Turkey had to be reduced and noted that arrivals of migrants by sea from Turkey had fallen to nothing over the past days.
“I hope that it continues because it will be proof that Turkey complies,” said Mr Mitsotakis who added that the EU and Greece want to work with Turkey but would not be blackmailed. He said Turkey had to honour the EU-Turkey joint statement of 2016.
The Austrian Chancellor said Mr Erdogan “abuses refugees and migrants who have lived in Turkey for years, exploits them and uses them as a weapon (against the EU). I am grateful that Greece and the Greek government are protecting Greek and European borders.”
Mr Kurz also praised Greek efforts to make the country more attractive to investors.
Mr Mitsotakis said that Greece can do more to improve economic relations with Australia, citing tourism as an example.
“Over 500,000 Austrians visit our country in both winter and summer,” the Greek PM said.
“The relations of our countries go back centuries,” he said, and in his final comment highlighted that the ambition of both leaders, who are also members of the European People’s Party, “is to face the future confidently, by seizing opportunities,” said Mr Mistotakis.