EU borders must be open to asylum seekers, top German diplomat says in Greece amid illegal pushback furor

Sat, 30 Jul 2022 11:48 GMT
Foreign Minister Baerbock’s remarks come as Athens faces growing pressure over policy of deadly, illegal pushbacks
EU borders must be open to asylum seekers, top German diplomat says in Greece amid illegal pushback furor

The European Union’s borders must remain open to asylum seekers, Germany’s foreign minister said in Greece on Friday, a pointed remark that increases pressure on Athens over its widely criticized policy of deadly and illegal migrant pushbacks. 

Annalena Baerbock’s remarks came at a joint press conference with her Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias in Athens, following a meeting that brought differences between Germany and Greece to the fore.

Baerbock seemed to build on views she expressed during her Thursday visit to a refugee camp and the office of the EU border agency Frontex, where she said it was critical for the EU to “ensure that human rights are guaranteed universally at borders,” according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

German magazine Der Spiegel also published a damning report on Thursday about an investigation by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) that found Frontex deliberately and systematically cooperated with Greece in illegally pushing back asylum seekers to Turkish waters.

The investigation determined that Frontex, under its former executive director Fabrice Leggeri, who quit in April under pressure from the European lawmakers and rights groups, covered up illegal actions of Greek forces and lied to the European Parliament.

“We cannot turn a blind eye when our shared values are violated. If we look away, our European ideals will drown in the Mediterranean,” Baerbock warned.  

Regional tensions and reparations

Türkiye was a prominent feature in discussions between Baerbock and Dendias on Friday.

Dendias raised the issue of Germany selling Type 214 submarines to Ankara, urging Baerbock to halt the deal as it would tilt the balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean in Türkiye’s favor.

Baerbock, who will head to Türkiye from Greece, emphasized the need for NATO members to resolve their issues through dialogue, particularly in the face of a growing Russian threat.

The top German diplomat, who earlier this week described Ankara as an “indispensable” NATO ally, also praised Türkiye for supplying its increasingly coveted TB2 Bayraktar drones to Ukraine.

Another topic brought up by Dendias was WWII reparations from Germany, which he said “remains open” for the Greek government and society.

Baerbock, however, stressed that Berlin considers the issue a “closed case.”


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