German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Athens on Thursday (29.10) for a series of meetings with Greek officials focusing on the migrant and refugee crisis, the greek economy and bilateral relations.
Meeting Steinmeier at the Presidential Mansion, President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos said that the European Union is best suited to help stop the war in Syria, clarifying that is up to Greece, as a sovereign member-state, to define the best way to protect its borders from migrant flows. On his side, the German foreign minister said that “a common European policy is needed to tackle the refugee crisis” and that “burdens must be shared more equally”.
Later on, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told the German FM that dealing with the refugee issue exceeds the capacity of only one country and emphasized the need for cooperation with Turkey on the issue as a priority. “Greece is shouldering the burden of Europe’s humanitarian facade,” Tsipras said, while underlining that the Union’s support is necessary. Steinmeier said that the refugee flows affect all of Europe, agreeing that Turkey’s border protection must be increased.
At a joint press conference following talks with Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, Steinmeier expressed recpect for Greece's determination to implement reforms and its humanitarian efforts in handling the refugee crisis. The German minister thanked Greece for its efforts in managing the migrant and refugee crisis, stressing the need for a fair distribution of the refugees throughout the EU countries and, most importantly, the need for a joint European solution. He also underlined the urgent need to step up cooperation with Turkey in stemming migrant flows.
Kotzias said that “The refugee issue will not be used as an excuse to violate Greek sovereignty”, adding that to stop refugee flows towards Europe, the war in Syria has to stop. The Greek minister also spoke of the need to identify and record refugees while still in Turkey so as to minimize risks to human life and allow their relocation around Europe.