ATHENS (Reuters) – European Union countries must work together to deal with the migrant crisis troubling the bloc and avoid blaming each other, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Greek daily Ta Nea in an interview on Monday.
EU members have started to pull in different directions in recent weeks as they argue over how to deal with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war in the Middle East and beyond.
“We must fight for Europe. We must stop blaming each other. On the contrary, we must unite forces and work together for a European solution to the refugee crisis. This is the only way for Europe to emerge stronger from this crisis,” Steinmeier said.
Greece, whose islands are the primary gateway to Europe for new arrivals, has been inundated with refugees and migrants after border shutdowns cascaded through the Balkans.
Austria last week hosted a summit of Balkan nations on how to regulate the migrant flows without inviting Athens.
This prompted Greece to recall its ambassador to Austria in anger over the border closures and threaten to block European Union decision-making unless the bloc comes up with concerted action to deal with the crisis.
Steinmeier said unilateral moves by EU countries could not support a sustainable solution to the problem and that a common course was needed.
“Neither side can benefit when inside the EU one blames the other. In this way we are not moving ahead by even one step in managing the refugee crisis. The rifts that are being formed now must be laboriously healed again,” he told the paper.
Last week, NATO envoys set out how ships already deployed in the Aegean, including Turkish and Greek vessels, will pass intelligence and reconnaissance information to Turkish and Greek coastguards and to the European Union border agency, Frontex, as well as returning to Turkey any migrants NATO crews rescue.
Steinmeier said it was crucial for Turkey to meet its commitments and move decisively against smugglers to reduce the flows of migrants from Turkey to the EU.
“This is the only way we can move to the next stage. The negotiations in the March 7 (EU summit) will take stock of where we are and what other possibilities are available,” the foreign minister said.