Alternate FM Nikos Xydakis holds talks on refugee crisis in Vienna

Alternate Foreign Minister for European Affairs, Nikos Xydakis on Monday met with the Minister of the Interior of Austria, Johanna Mikl-Leitner and the Secretary General of the Austrian Foreign Ministry, Ambassador Michael Linhart, in Vienna.

Mr. Xydakis and Ms. Mikl-Leitner discussed issues related to the refugee crisis, as well as the need for the countries of Europe to work together in confronting the crisis. Ms. Leitner referred to the problem posed for Austria by the increasing number of refugees the country is called upon to accommodate. Moreover, she requested a detailed briefing on a number of issues that concern the management of refugee flows.

Mr. Xydakis spoke of Greece’s experience and said that the Greek Coastguard was operating beyond its capabilities and that it needs material and personnel support. He noted that the European Union should support Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan – countries that host Syrian refugees. He also reffered to the UN World Food Programme, which in 2015 was significantly confined, due to lack of funding. He also informed the Austrian Minister that Greece is adequately guarding its maritime borders – in cooperation with Frontex as well as its land borders. “You can’t stop refugees with fences at sea. Desperate people will seek another route”, Mr. Xydakis noted, stressing that Greece has been requesting assistance for years. “We believe, that these issues can be dealt with through the revitalization of European solidarity, and not by falling into the trap of a blame game” , Mr. Xydakis said, referring to the recent debate on the Schengen treaty.

In response to a question by Ms. Leitner regarding the Greek-Turkish readmission protocol, Mr. Xydakis noted the delays that have been registered on the part of Turkey and the efforts that have been made recently to improve cooperation between the two countries. Ms. Leitner assured Mr. Xydakis that Austria will support Greece with human resources and equipment, and the two ministers agreed on the need for sincere relations of cooperation between the two countries.

Mr. Xydakis met subsequently with the Secretary General of the Austrian Foreign Ministry, Dr. Michael Linhart. The two collocutors also focused on the refugee issue. Mr. Linhart acknowledged that Greece is facing a demanding situation – just as difficult as that of Austria – and noted that the two countries must work together with the aim of finding European solutions. He referred in particular to the completion of the hotspots and the functioning of the relocation mechanism, stressing that every positive step is towards restoring the European cooperation.

Mr. Xydakis also referred to the issue of the support of FYROM by the member states of the EU. He stressed that the member states should safeguard the Union, strengthening the trust and cooperation among them. Finally, he spoke of the importance of the implementation of a relocation plan, as well as the implementation of the Joint Action Plan with Turkey.

On Tuesday, Mr. Xydakis will travel on to Bratislava, where he will meet with the Foreign Minister of Slovakia, Miroslav Lajčák, and the Deputy Foreign Minister for European Affairs, Ivan Korčok.
Mr. Xydakis will complete his tour on Wednesday, in Budapest, where he will meet with Hungary’s Interior Minister, Sándor Pintér, Deputy Minister of State for European Affairs, Takács Szabolcs Ferenc, and Economic Diplomacy Minister, Levente Magyar.

PHOTO: Greek MFA flickr (Alternate Foreign Minister for European Affairs, Nikos Xydakis and Minister of the Interior of Austria, Johanna Mikl-Leitner)