Macedonia 'paying for EU mistakes' in refugee crisis

Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov accuses EU of making mistakes during record refugee influx

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Refugees stand near fire at a makeshift camp set by stranded refugees waiting to cross the Greek-Macedonian border, near the Greek village of Idomenii, March 1, 2016.

Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov has accused the EU of failing to anticipate a huge refugee influx through Turkey and then dithering in the face of the historic refugee wave.

The border closure with EU member Greece has, along with similar moves by other Balkan states, effectively stopped the flows of refugees to northern Europe but left tens of thousands stranded in Greece.

"In the refugee crisis, we are now paying for the EU's mistakes, we have already spent 25 million euros [$28 million] of our taxpayers' money and had to declare a national crisis," Ivanov told Germany's Bild newspaper.

"And what did we get from Europe in return? Nothing! Not a cent! Instead, we, as a non-EU country, are now forced to protect Europe from an EU country, namely Greece," which he charged had been simply waving through refugees arriving from Turkey.

He bitterly accused the bloc of foiling its membership hopes for the past 25 years and added that, in Europe's view, "we're nothing, not an EU country, not in the [visa-free] Schengen zone, not in NATO. No one wants us."

Ivanov also charged that the EU had "completely lost sight" of security concerns as refugees arrive from war-torn Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries.

"If we had relied on Brussels rather than react ourselves, we would have been flooded with jihadists," he said.

Ivanov said his country had confiscated some 9,000 forged or stolen passports, but that EU countries including Germany had declined to share information on militants or biometric identification technology.

"In the refugee crisis there is the humanitarian aspect and the security aspect," he said. "In terms of humanity, Germany acted very well. But in terms of security, your country has completely failed."

He added that Chancellor Angela Merkel, with her liberal refugee policy, "has shown courage."

"But no one has the courage to say what still lies ahead. Between Sudan and Egypt alone, 20 million migrants are waiting to come to Europe. The refugee flow won't end, because everyone knows everything via Twitter and Facebook."

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 1.1 million refugees arrived in Europe last year, more than 850,000 of those arrived by sea to Greece from Turkey, hosting nearly 2.5 million refugees.

The Syrian civil war has claimed more than 260,000 lives and turned the country into the world's largest source of refugees and displaced persons.

TRTWorld and agencies