Juncker sees Greek progress on refugees

18 February 2016
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There was a boost on Wednesday for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras regarding the refugee crisis ahead of the start of the European Union leaders’ summit Thursday but also disappointment as it emerged that Turkish Premier Ahmet Davutoglu would not travel to Brussels following a terrorist attack in Ankara.

“You’re doing a good job with the refugee crisis. Keep it up,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told Tsipras Wednesday before the two held talks in the Belgian capital.

Later, Juncker told Germany’s Bild newspaper that he discerns progress in the EU’s efforts to stem the flow of refugees and migrants arriving in Greece and then traveling to Central and Northern Europe.

“We are at last seeing some first progress,” he told Bild, adding that the number of migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey was falling.

Juncker also rejected the idea that European countries might tighten their border controls to prevent migrants crossing but at the expense of Greece.

“It is neither legal nor politically acceptable to work with third countries to close a border with an EU member-state,” said the Commission president in an apparent reference to the help that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been receiving to bolster defenses on its border with Greece.

Some Central European countries, led by the so-called Visegrad Four (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) have been pushing for stricter border controls.

“If in mid-March the… influx of 1,500-2,000 people a day continues, it will be clear that Turkey has failed to meet its promises and we will need a different way to protect the European border,” said Tomas Prouza, the Czech state secretary for EU affairs.

Leaders of 10 EU countries were due to meet on Thursday morning with Davutoglu to discuss Turkey’s role in stemming the migratory flow but Wednesday’s bomb blast in Ankara, which killed 28 people and injuring dozens, led to the Turkish premier calling off his trip.

Despite this change to the plan, Tsipras is expected to present to his counterparts the progress Greece has made in the completion of four of the five hot spots on the Aegean islands.

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