Greek PM criticises Tusk’s backing of Balkan route closure

Greek PM blasts top EU official’s support of Balkan route closure, says EU should stop ‘unilateral actions’

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (R) meets with European Council President Donald Tusk at the Maximos Mansion in Athens, Greece, March 3, 2016.

A top EU official’s tweet praising the closure of the Balkan refugee route was blasted by Greece’s leadership on Thursday.

After countries of the so-called Balkan corridor closed their borders, European Council President, Donald Tusk, thanked Western Balkan countries via Twitter “for implementing part of [the] EU’s comprehensive strategy to deal with migration crisis.”

“The EU has no future if it proceeds with unilateral actions that create faits accomplis,” said Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, in response.

“We expect Mr Tusk, as president of the EU28, to focus efforts on the implementation of common decisions and not encourage those who ignore them.”

Deputy Immigration Minister, Giannis Mouzalas, echoed Tsipras, after a meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels, saying Balkan states were not to thank as they violated EU decisions and pursued individual steps that deteriorated the problem.

According to the Greek Interior Ministry, there are currently almost 42,000 -mainly Syrian and Afghan refugees- across Greece, most seeking to travel further north.

Opposition parties blamed the Greek leadership for Tusk’s view. Main opposition party head, Kiriakos Mitsotakis, slammed the government for Tusk’s tweet, saying, “Tsipras’ humanism and reliability is sinking in the mud of Idomeni," the site of a refugee camp bordering Macedonia, and the Balkan route.

Refugees gather as they try to get products from a truck, at a makeshift camp on the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece March 10, 2016.

The Greek Communist Party charged that Tsipras' policy “cheats and misleads the Greek people”, while the Union of Centrists head Vassilis Leventis accused Tsipras of painting a false picture of what's happening to Greeks.

However, European Commission spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, when asked if the commission shares Tusk’s view, said, “All states along the corridor of the western Balkans should be talking to each other instead of doing things to each other,” and repeated European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker’s, statement that "it is clear that unilateral actions do not offer solutions."

Meanwhile, during his main annual speech to the UN Human Rights Council, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein called the situation in Greece dramatic, as thousands of refugees are stuck at the Greek-Macedonian border due to border restrictions imposed by Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia.

"I urge the EU to adopt a much more rights-compliant and humane set of measures on migration at next week's summit," he said.

The next EU summit on the refugee crisis will take place on March 17-18.

TRTWorld, AA