Migrants: 'Italy and Greece need support', Italian FM

'Burden is only on countries where they land'

18 February, 18:57

    Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Paolo Gentiloni visits Athens Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Paolo Gentiloni visits Athens

    (by Luca Mirone) (ANSAmed) - ATHENS, FEBRUARY 18 - Italy and Greece cannot be left alone to share the ''burden'' of migratory influxes as countries where the migrants first arrive, said Italian foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni on Thursday.

    The EU must also put forth greater efforts for shared policies, he added on a visit to the Greek capital on a day of a delicate European Council meeting marked by divisions on the sharing out of refugees and border control. Greece is under pressure due to a sharp rise in landings on its coasts. The EU Commission has given it three months to fill the gaps in its external border control, while the eastern bloc of the Visegrad group (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary) is calling loudly for a wall along the border with Macedonia. Italy is meanwhile paying for the Libyan crisis with a sharp rise in landings on Lampedusa. Meeting with Greek president Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Gentiloni warned against ''unilateral choices that could wipe out one of the greatest European achievements, that of free circulation of people and the Schengen Treaty''.

    He underscored that ''there is an alternative'' in the form of EU-wide burden sharing, starting from a revision of the Dublin Regulation to change the rule requiring the first country the migrants set foot in to provide assistance. Gentiloni said that he expected this revision to start in March, ''by the Commission as scheduled''. Though there is staunch opposition to any changes, Italy can count on backing from such countries as Germany and the aim is to widen support, he said. He stressed that it was important to maintain the Schengen zone and prevent the closing of borders that Visegrad would like, as would Italy's neighbor Austria. The Greek president said that his country agreed with Italy ''against countries that want to manage refugees in a unilateral matter''. Athens, he said, is prepared to collaborate with Frontex and NATO but wants ''respect for its sovereignty'' in sea control. Greece also does not want to distance itself from Europe, he said. ''How can we feel outside of Europe?,'' Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said, warning that ''the solution is not to block the borders as EU countries that are much 'younger' than us say.

    Much better-thought-out ones are needed, not easy solutions that lead to fragmentation.'' (ANSAmed).

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