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Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-07-13

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] PM meets Spain's Zapatero
  • [02] Bakoyannis on refugee issues

  • [01] PM meets Spain's Zapatero

    Madrid (ANA-MPA / C. Melissopoulos) -- Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met Monday with his Spanish counterpart Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero while on an official visit to Spain.

    Their talks focused on the problem of illegal migration and the ongoing global economic crisis, as well as bilateral issues.

    Responding to questions, Karamanlis stated that the outcome of the European Parliament elections was not indicative of the national election results and referring to the government's economic policy, he stressed that its primary goal was not to impose revenue-raising measures but to adopt structural reforms. "This is what we are trying to do and what will eventually be done," he underlined.

    Regarding illegal migration, the Greek premier said that tackling this was a priority for Europe and stressed that Greece was working closely with its EU partners and on a bilateral level with Mediterranean countries in order to come up with solutions.

    "The growing problem of illegal migration demands European solidarity and can only be solved together," he underlined.

    According to Karamanlis, resolving the problem required a three-level approach: firstly, dealing by adopting common policies on a European level, secondly on a national level and thirdly, through policies for the economic support of countries immigrants originated from.

    He stressed the need to further reinforce the EU's Frontex agency and said that European sea patrols would be a "very important step," while emphasising that countries should honour the re-admission treaties they had signed.

    Karamanlis noted also that Greece was both willing and obliged to work with Turkey for the re-admission of immigrants and underlined that Turkey "is not upholding the agreement it has signed with our country satisfactorily."

    "We support Turkey's European prospects, on condition that the terms that have been agreed are met. Our position is clear: full accession and full compliance. Turkey must cooperate more effectively with Greece and the EU," the Greek premier stressed.

    Karamanlis also referred to EuroMediterranean cooperation, saying that this acted as a "bridge" for bringing non-EU countries of the Mediterranean closer to the EU to discuss tackling illegal immigration.

    Talking about the impact of the global economic crisis, the Greek premier said that this had been milder in Greece than many other European countries but had led to a problem with fiscal balances that was largely due to the large public debt built up in previous decades.

    Zapatero, on his part, noted the good level of bilateral relations between the two countries, saying that they had almost identical views on the vast majority of issues. He also agreed on the need for a common approach to tackling illegal immigration within the framework of the EU, while noting that collaboration and diplomatic cooperation with the immigrants' origin and transit countries was of "fundamental importance".

    He said that reinforcing Frontex was among the goals of the Spanish presidency, as well as ensuring that the EU worked steadily to ensure that re-admission treaties were honoured and that EU immigration policy was accompanied by close cooperation with the origin and transit countries so that it might bring results.

    Earlier, Karamanlis had a meeting with the leader of the Spanish opposition, Popular Party president Mariano Rajoy. No comments were made afterwards.

    Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis

    [02] Bakoyannis on refugee issues

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Monday stressed the necessity of finding a balance between the need to protect Greece's borders and that of protecting the right of asylum of refugees forced to abandon their homes. She was addressing an event organised by the Greek office of the UN High Commission for Refugees in order to raise public awareness of refugee issues, with the support of the Greek foreign ministry.

    The minister reiterated the need for "European solidarity in practice and not just in words" to countries like Greece, which found themselves on the front lines of the immigration wave.

    Referring to Sunday's events in the port city of Patras, where authorities tore down a makeshift encampment occupied mainly by illegal migrants on the city's coastal road, the minister stressed that the situation had dragged on for 12 years and was a "blight on Greek civilisation". The people living there would now be placed in government hostels, with first priority going to the children, she said.

    Bakoyannis noted that the migration was a global problem, with refugees numbering some 42 million people worldwide according to figures in 2008, while many were people displaced within the borders of their own countries.

    The minister stressed that 80 percent of refugees currently burdened developing nations, with the largest numbers during 2008 recorded in Pakistan (1.8 million), Syria (1.1 million), Iran (1.0 million), Germany (600,000) and Jordan (500,000).

    She stressed that the foreign ministry had been working with UNHCR on the current public awareness campaign long before the issue came to the top of the political and news agenda and a long time before the Euro polls.

    Responding to questions about the attitudes of the public to migrants, Bakoyannis was careful to distinguish between refugees and immigrants, stressing that refugees were not just people who left their homes in search of better fortunes but people fleeing civil war and religious or racial persecution.

    "This difference has to become understood," she stressed, while underlining the need for European solidarity toward Greece, which needed infrastructure and funds in order to balance the needs of protecting borders with the need to provide asylum.

    The minister also referred to instances when asylum requests were made without justification, pointing out that it was often hard to distinguish between genuine refugees and economic migrants due to a lack of necessary infrastructure in their country of origin that might confirm their identity and because of the persecution that they might be subjected to there.

    "Our European partners know these things," she underlined, summarising Greece's positions for common action and a common approach, political pressure on third countries to honour readmission agreements and making funds available for the guarding of borders and providing asylum.

    She also called for a policy of preventative intervention by the EU to avert conflicts in developing countries and better coordination in the provision of developmental aid in order to combat the causes of poverty and promote growth in the countries where migrants originated.

    "The EU has not yet sent money to Pakistan, which faces a huge problem with internal migration. Developments are occurring much more quickly than we make decisions," Bakoyannis underlined.

    The minister expressed conviction that Greek society was neither racist nor xenophobic, in spite of some negative "reflexes" generated by the sudden sharp increase of immigrants in a country, which had gone from being an almost entirely uniform culture with a single religion to a society with more than 12 percent immigrants in less than a single generation.

    Referring to neighbouring Turkey, meanwhile, Bakoyannis said that Turkey was failing to honour an agreement for the re-admission of immigrants, many of whom came to Greece from its shores.

    "This must be respected and we must work together to clamp down on organised crime and the EU must help Turkey sign readmission treaties with its neighbours so that it can cope with its own problems with immigration," she stressed.

    Caption: Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis addressing an event held in Athens on Monday, organised by the Greek office of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to raise public awareness of refugee issues with the support of the Greek foreign ministry. ANA-MPA - Alexandros Beltes.

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