European Commission Vice-president Frans Timmermans and Migration & Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos met with Greek leadership on Thursday to focus directly on the migration crisis that has drastically affected several Greek isles and even replaced the “Greece-euro issue” as the main worry in Europe.
The meetings took place hours after the current caretaker Greek government took measures that the previous radical leftist government failed to take in the previous six months. The specter of the extremely tragic images of a Syrian child’s lifeless body on a Turkish beach also loomed over the meetings.
On her part, caretaker Prime Minister Vassiliki Thanou said her temporary government will take specific measures to manage the crisis. The pair was later received by Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
Timmermans said Europe is facing an unprecedented humanitarian and political crisis for which it needs to come up with European answers. He also said no member-state can alone deal with the problem.
Moreover, he referred to the shock from the images of the drowned toddler.
Both men are due on the eastern Aegean island of Kos to survey the situation first hand, as the isle has been inundated with Syrian refugees and third country nationals sneaking into the country in a bid to reach other European destinations.
Meanwhile, Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis announced that the handful of island bearing the brunt of arrivals will be financially supported via EU coffers. economically supported, including with EU funds.
He said most of the funding will come from the EU’s Asylum Fund and another relevant fund. Athens is eyeing a total of 730 million euros in emergency support to deal with the situation, he said.
What’s noteworthy is the fact that the previous Tsipras government and controversial alternate minister for migration Tasia Christodoulopoulou had failed to set in motion the procedures for accessing emergency Community funds to deal with the crisis.
Four out of 10 coast guard vessels out of order
On his part, caretaker shipping minister Christos Zois told reporters on Thursday that the Greek coast guard has rescued roughly 50,000 people in 2015 alone. He added that in the first eight months of 2014 the coast guard detained 17,500 people that illegally landed on Greek territory, whereas the first eight months of 2015 the same figure was 230,000.
Moreover, in a surprising revelation, Zois said that of the 36 percent of the 240 vessels operated by the coast guard are out of order and permanently docked.