by Aggelos Skordas
In light of the European Council President Donald Tusk’s recent suggestion to scrap mandatory quotas on relocating asylum seekers across the European Union member states, Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, on Wednesday urged European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to call for a meeting with German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, in order to table the developments in the relations between the Union and Turkey in regard to the ongoing migration crisis. Earlier, a sum of 156 asylum seekers, who were relocated from the eastern Aegean island of Chios to Greece’s mainland, have been provided with shelter at three hotels in northern city of Grevena, the Greek authorities have announced on Wednesday.
In an interview with Greek public broadcaster ERT3, Tsipras said Tusks proposal is “unfortunate, untimely and unnecessary”. Moreover, he estimated that Tusk’s suggestion “has little chance of being adopted” by European Union leaders and declared that Greece will not accept any changes in the current agreement.
On Monday, Tusk sent a note to all the European Union leaders stating that “only member states are able to tackle the migration crisis effectively”, while suggesting that the European Union’s role could be limited to offering “its full support in all possible ways to help member states handle the migration crisis. But the European Union has neither the capacity nor legal possibilities to replace member states”. Moreover, the former minister of Poland concluded that “the issue of mandatory quotas has proven to be highly divisive and the approach has turned out to be ineffective”.
The above statement caused the immediate reaction of Greece and Italy, the first reception countries that have borne the burned of the migration crisis, while other countries including Germany dismissed Tusk’s suggestion, which was regarded as “anti-European”. On his behalf, European Union Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, characterised Tusk’s proposal as “unacceptable” and “anti-European” and strictly underlined that his position is clear: “The paper prepared by President Tusk is unacceptable. It is anti-European, and it ignores all the work we have done during the past years and we’ve done this work together. This paper is undermining one of the main pillars of the European project, the principle of solidarity. Europe without solidarity cannot exist. Our success in managing migration cannot be attributed to individual member states. These are European successes that are the results […] of our joint actions, of our joint efforts, of the European Union institutions, its agencies and all member states.”
The trilateral meeting between Juncker, Tsipras and Merkel is expected to take place on Thursday in Brussels on the sidelines of the European Council. Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, is also expected to participate in the meeting, although that has not yet been officially confirmed.