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German-Greek deal on refugee returns advancing but not easy

Talks between Germany and Greece on a deal for refugees returns are fairly advanced, said Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday, highlighting that an agreement with Italy still has some time yet.

“We are in the process of negotiations,” she said during a joint press conference she gave in Berlin with Bosnia-Herzegovina Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic, but we haven’t reached that point yet, she added.

Germany will send back asylum seekers who have been first registered in Greece as the first EU country where they arrived. Excepted are unaccompanied minors.

Last Saturday a similar deal was reached with Spain which foresees that Germany will be able to send illegal immigrants it spots on its borders with Austria if they have already registered in Spain.

CSU-hardliner Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is currently negotiating with Greece and Italy to reach similar agreements— but it’s not proving easy, noted deutschewelle on Monday . Although Spain hopes that Germany will invest more money in protecting the EU’s borders, it didn’t directly ask for anything in return for taking the refugees.

Athens and Rome, however, are already making demands. As things stand, they are only prepared to enter into a joint arrangement of this kind if, in return, Germany accepts some refugees from their countries; for example, those who wish to join family members already in Germany.

Seehofer, however, has rejected this proposal. “There’s no point in us signing this, because the German public would not understand it if we were to accept more than we turned away at the border,” he said. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said that, in spite of the difficulties, an agreement with Greece was in sight — but there was no immediate prospect of a deal between Berlin and Rome.

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