The European Union and its Member States have reaffirmed their determination to protect the external borders. “Illegal border crossings will not be tolerated,” said a statement agreed by the interior ministers of the 27 EU countries at a special meeting in Brussels on Wednesday evening. “The EU and its member states will take all necessary measures in accordance with European and international law.” The EU interior ministers accused Turkey of using “migration pressure” for political purposes.
Turkey had declared the EU borders to be open to migrants at the weekend. As a result, thousands of people had made their way to the Greek border. Observers believe that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to put the EU under pressure. The Greek security forces are tough to push back migrants – something that criticized human rights.
For the Croatian EU Council Presidency, Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said that the EU is unanimously behind Greece and will not allow illegal border crossings. “We expect migrants and asylum seekers to respect our European law,” said Bozinovic.
“Nobody can say for sure” whether all measures at the Greek-Turkish border currently comply with international law, EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson admitted. You can only call for compliance with this right: “I am counting on the Greek government to follow it.”
The topic should also play a role in the Bundestag on Thursday. In a current hour, the MPs talk about the escalation in the Syrian rebel stronghold Idlib and the consequences for Europe. Idlib is located on the Turkish border, Turkey has a military presence there and supports rebels who are fighting against Syrian government supporters.
Turkey is already home to millions of Syrian refugees, fears another rush and laments the lack of commitment from the international community – this is the background to the recent escalation in the migration dispute with the EU. The situation in Idlib and the tense situation on the Greek-Turkish border should also overlap the meetings of the EU Defense and Foreign Ministers in the Croatian capital Zagreb.
In addition to the situation on the Greek-Turkish land border, the situation on the Greek islands in the East Aegean is tense, where thousands of migrants are in overcrowded camps. Commissioner Johansson said two countries – Luxembourg and Finland – gave concrete figures on the takeover of underage refugees from the islands. Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) said after the meeting that there had been no talk of redistributing refugees. “No, that was not on the agenda today,” he said, but the Council of Ministers would “tackle this issue in a timely manner.”
The CSU politician had previously campaigned to distribute unaccompanied minors from the Greek Aegean Islands to EU member states willing to accept them. A European solution was important for the admission of children and adolescents: “As many as possible have to participate,” said Seehofer. Seehofer also made it clear that creating an order on the Greek-Turkish border is a top priority for him.
The CDU chairman Friedrich Merz agreed with Seehofer’s proposal to admit children and adolescents from the Greek refugee camps if there is a “coalition of the willing”. “If there were a solution together with other EU countries, it would be a good decision in every respect. It is simply terrible to watch the television pictures showing the circumstances in which people and especially the children live in the refugee camps”, Merz told the Austrian newspaper “Die Presse” (online). At the same time, he called for the protection of the European external borders and called the closure of the German borders “the Ultima Ratio”.
Bundestag votes against the admission of 5000 refugees
The CDU domestic politician Armin Schuster criticized the offer of several prime ministers to accept underage refugees from Greek camps in their federal states. “This message does not stay in Germany, but is trumpeted around the world and sends the wrong signals again,” he told the Düsseldorf “Rheinische Post”. According to him, the most important experience after 2015 was that other EU countries had accused Germany of “increasing the flow of refugees by means of lure calls”. Therefore they would have refused to share the burden fairly.
In the Bundestag, the grand coalition voted against the admission of 5000 vulnerable refugees from Greece on Wednesday evening – although numerous Social Democrats actually largely support the Greens’ proposal to this effect. At the plenary debate, the deputy SPD parliamentary group leader Eva Högl stated that the application contained “a lot of things”, but that he would not help in the current situation. Instead, a European solution is needed.