Faced with influx of migrants, EU promises "all necessary aid" to Greece

Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel and Kyriakos Mitsotakis on the Greek-Turkish border, March 3.
Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel and Kyriakos Mitsotakis on the Greek-Turkish border, March 3. Dimitris Papamitsos / AP

As concern grows over a new influx of migrants at its gates after Ankara's decision to open the borders on Friday, the European Union (EU) urgently dispatched on Tuesday 2 March, its highest officials in Turkey and Greece. In solidarity with Athens, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Council President Charles Michel and European Parliament leader David Sassoli traveled to Greece near the Turkish border in the afternoon.

Ursula von der Leyen, said Tuesday " alongside " from Greece and promised to Athens "All the help you need" to cope with the influx of thousands of migrants from neighboring Turkey. "Those who seek to test the unity of Europe will be disappointed", she declared at the border post of Kastanies, in the northeast of the country, alongside the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to whom she promised "700 million euros", half of which immediately.

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EU member states confirmed on Tuesday to the European border control agency Frontex their agreement to contribute to a rapid intervention to help Greece in the face of the influx of thousands of migrants via Turkey. Frontex has already deployed reinforcements and raised its alert level in the area of ​​the Turkish-Greek border.

"Blackmail", "absolutely unacceptable"

In parallel, the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell and the European Commissioner for crisis management Janez Lenarcic are paying a two-day visit to Ankara for discussions " at high level " on the situation in Syria. According to many observers, Turkey is seeking to put pressure on Europe to obtain more support in Syria where nearly a million displaced people are massed on its border and where Ankara is fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has judged "Unacceptable" Tuesday the "Blackmail" from Turkey, which threatens to let millions of migrants pass to Europe if it does not get EU aid to manage the flow of Syrian refugees. "The use by Turkey of migrants as a means of pressure and blackmail on Europe is absolutely unacceptable", he told the National Assembly, reproaching Ankara "To exploit the refugees and migrants already present on its territory".

For his part, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Tuesday denounced a "Attack on the European Union and Greece", considering that "Human beings are used to put pressure" on the Old Continent, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel tried on Monday "Unacceptable" Turkey to put pressure on the EU "On the back of the refugees".

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Tens of thousands of migrants

A migrant on the Greek island of Lesbos on March 3.
A migrant on the Greek island of Lesbos on March 3. ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP

The situation on the Greek-Turkish border has tightened sharply in recent days, with clashes between Greek police officers firing tear gas canisters and using water cannons, and migrants responding with throwing stones. Several thousand migrants spent another night near the Pazarkule border post (Kastanies, Greek side) or on the banks of the Evros river which separates the two countries.

On the Greek side, hooded border guards armed with rifles patrolled the river to intercept migrants, while others watched the area with a binocular from a watchtower. Small groups of migrants walked along the icy waters of the Evros in search of a fault in the device, and a few backwashed motor boats shuttled between the two banks. But after several days of waiting, some migrants, who thought they could easily cross the border, seemed on the verge of giving up.

Erdogan said on Monday that "Millions" of migrants were going " soon " overwhelm Europe, saying that everyone should "Take your share of the burden". For the moment, far from the figures mentioned by the Turkish president, "24,203 attempts at illegal entry were avoided, 183 people were arrested" ebetween Saturday and Monday evening, according to the Greek government. Faced with this situation which she describes as"Invasion", Greece said on Tuesday that it is awaiting a "Strong support" of the European Union.

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Ankara looking for western support

Turkey’s decision to open its borders comes at a time when Ankara, which has launched a major offensive against the Syrian regime after suffering heavy casualties, is seeking Western support. Turkey announced on Tuesday that it had shot down a regime aircraft, the third since Sunday, in its operation called "Spring Shield" which takes place in the Idleb province (North West).

The clashes come two days before a crucial meeting in Moscow between Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country militarily supports the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Ankara hopes to end a truce during these discussions. Despite their divergent interests in this conflict, which has killed more than 380,000 people since 2011, Moscow and Ankara have strengthened their cooperation in recent years. But the situation in Idleb has strained their reports.

The regime’s offensive since December in this last rebel and jihadist stronghold in Syria has caused a humanitarian catastrophe, with nearly a million people displaced.

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The World with AFP


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