The European Union’s new pact on migration and asylum needs to be finalized as soon as possible, in anticipation of fresh pressure from the ongoing hostilities in the Middle East, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stressed on Tuesday, following a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.
Speaking at a joint press conference after their meeting, Mitsotakis noted that “it is very likely that front-line countries like Greece will face new, strong pressure at its borders” from a fresh influx of refugees fleeing the war in Gaza.
“The new European agreement on migration and asylum must be completed soon on the basis of solidarity and the fair distribution of responsibilities between member-states,” the Greek prime minister said.
“We need a dynamic plan that moves in two directions: preventing illegal entries, on the one hand, and managing legal inflows, on the other,” he added.
The Greek prime minister’s concerns were echoed by Scholz, who noted that “Greece is on the outer border of the EU and has seen irregular migrants arrivals increase significantly this year, but Germany is also facing enormous challenges.”
“This means that we need to find common solutions at the bilateral and European level,” he said, adding that a “European solution” is also needed to stem secondary flows to Germany from other EU countries.
Apart from the impact of the war in Gaza and the European response, Mistotakis and Scholz also discussed a number of other topics, including EU accession talks with the Western Balkans, the rebound of the Greek economy, and bilateral cooperation on energy and investments.
Mitsotakis reaffirmed the significant improvement in Greek-German relations on all levels.
Referring to Greek-German economic relations, he said: “This year we broke the record in tourist arrivals, with German visitors preferring Greece, while German companies are first among the foreign investors in our country and the environment is favorable in bilateral trade as well, as Germany is our second main supplier and the third biggest customer for Greek products. For the above reasons, Germany will be the honored country at the next Thessaloniki International Fair and I had the opportunity to invite Chancellor Scholz to attend the Fair.”
The Greek premier also underlined the importance of cooperation in energy, stressing the high geo-strategic significance the green energy corridor between north and south, which, as he said, constitutes an important step for independence from the Russian energy and for the development of renewable energy sources.
The Greek PM also discussed with Scholz the Cyprus issue with Scholz and briefed him on efforts to “steer Greek-Turkish relations into calm waters.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that the crisis in the Middle East, the war in Ukraine, EU enlargement, migration, energy and protecting the climate had dominated talks during his meeting with Mitsotakis at the Chancellery, expressing satisfaction with the progress made on a series of issues.
Addressing a joint press conference held after the meeting, Scholz reiterated Berlin’s position that “Israel has a right and a duty to defend itself, always in the framework of international law,” and expressed his support for “humanitarian pauses” to allow humanitarian aid to reach the Gaza Strip. He also reminded reporters of the atrocities committed by Hamas and asked for the immediate and unconditional release of the Israeli hostages, noting that he is in favour of a two-state solution.
Referring to Ukraine, Scholz underlined that they agreed with Mitsotakis on continuing to support the country’s defense noting that Germany supports the enlargement of the European Union, provided that the countries involved complete the necessary reforms.
On migration, the German Chancellor asked for the speedy completion of a revision of European asylum laws, referring to a need for bilateral and European solutions to tackle secondary migration to Germany.
“Hamas is a terror organisation. We agree on this [with the Greek prime minister],” stated Chancellor Scholz.
Both leaders stressed that Israel has a right to self defense.