On Tuesday, Greek PM, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, announced that 24 000 migrants were stopped from entering illegally in Greece through the border of Turkey.
The announcement came after a visit at the Kastanies border crossing point, attended by several EU officials, including Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel and David Sassoli.
Erdogan’s move came after the commencement of a major offensive in the Syrian province in Idlib, amid failed talks between the Russian and Turkish authorities. The Turkish Prime Minister declared that his country could no further accommodate over 4 million Syrian refugees on its territory. According to a Euronews interview, the Turkish authorities expressed the decision had the mission to draw international attention to the situation in Syria, where the Turkish government aims to create a safe zone for the Syrian refugees. This decision comes amid ongoing anti-refugee rhetoric in Turkey (a spreading belief that Turkey is used as a “dumping ground”) and claims that the European Union is not respecting the 2016 Brussels EU-Turkey Statement on tackling irregular migration.
EU & Greek position on the conflict
On their behalf, the European Union officials denied the Turkish claims and accused its leaders of using migrants “as a means to reach a goal”. At the Kastanies press conference, von der Leyen argued that the Union is expressing its solidarity and support to Greece amid the ongoing crisis. “The situation at our border is not only an issue for Greece to manage, but it is also the responsibility of Europe as a whole”, mentioned the European Commission president. An additional financial aid program worth €700 million is to be provided to the Greek government to manage the emergency, a Frontex mission is deployed to assist the Greek border police units.
Notwithstanding the rapid and straightforward response, additional European leaders have maintained contact with the Turkish authorities over the situation. Specifically, Bulgarian PM, Boris Borissov, during a bilateral meeting with Erdogan, tried to convince the Turkish leader to participate at a trilateral Bulgaria-Greece-Turkey summit on the crisis. The Turkish PM, although assuring his Bulgarian counterpart of preventing a repetition of the Greek circumstances at the Bulgarian border segment, has declined to participate at the proposed summit. He referred to the “alleged” killing of two migrants at the Greek-Turkish border as the reason behind his refusal. To this, Mitsotakis straightforwardly refuted the accusations.
Instead of conclusions…
With the ongoing conflict developing in the area, the European Union will try to avoid another escalation of the migration incursions, reminiscent of the 2015 migration crisis. In the last couple of days, the Greek law enforcement authorities have detained 180+ individuals near the border between the two states. Assuring the Greek authorities of the Union’s support, Ursula Von Der Leyen further emphasized: “We will hold the line and our unity will prevail”.
The author of this article is Emil Burinschi, B.A. student in International Relations at the Corvinus University of Budapest. Born in the Republic of Moldova, Emil is a Middle Manager within the International Diplomatic Student Association (IDSA.) He is also part of the organizing team at Munapest 2020.