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Tusk’s stance highlights divisions on Europe’s migration policy / Greece accepts EU support

Many EU media continue covering the refugee crisis and its impact on the European Union and Schengen area. Several journalists react to Donald Tusk’s stance made earlier this week that refugees arriving in Europe should be detained for up to 18 months in holding centres while they are screened for security and terrorism risks.

Daniel Bax writes in Tageszeitung that instead of fulfilling his duty to seek a compromise in the refugee crisis, Mr Tusk has sided with Eastern European member states as a clear challenge to Angela Merkel. In Austria, a Salzburger Nachrichten editorial also blames Mr Tusk for adding fuel to the flames and alienating those countries that advocate solidarity and a fairer distribution of refugees. Mr Tusk is promoting the division of Europe, said MEP Rebecca Harms, as quoted by Kleine Zeitung.

Showing a different stance, The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes that Donald Tusk has made it clear that he does not see eye to eye with Angela Merkel on her refugee policy, and that he speaks for a majority of European member states. This statement by Mr Tusk has highlighted Germany’s increasingly isolated position in the refugee crisis, Le Figaro points out. Only seven EU member states – Austria, Belgium, Finland, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden – have accepted to talk about Angela Merkel’s proposal to set a “contingent” of Syrian refugees coming from Turkey.

Slovakia and Hungary have also decided to file a complaint against the migrant quota decided last September and several countries, such as Hungary, have rejected the idea of a mini-Schengen are in Europe. In Slovakia, Peter Shutz writes in SME that the pro-migrant tendency in Europe is slowly losing ground, and that the Schengen Area can only work when the migrant flows are regulated outside its borders. For instance, Svenska Dagbladet reports that the Swedish government is considering a regulatory change, which would allow it to temporarily close the Oresund Bridge to Denmark on very short notice.

In an interview published in Volkskrant, Migration Commissioner Avramopoulos said he is not satisfied with member states letting their own political interests prevail over those of the EU. Since the distribution plan for migrants is not working, he said he will remind the responsible ministers that participation is not optional, and that sanctions could be applied. In De Morgen, Mr Avramopoulos further insists that “it is not a moral duty, it is a legal obligation.”

Meanwhile, Greece accepted the EU’s proposal to get support to tackle the migrant crisis, and to activate the mechanism of civil protection to provide assistance to refugees, Kathimerini, La Stampa and Sole 24 Ore report. Kathimerini quotes Migration Commissioner Avramopoulos as saying that the situation in the Greek borders must be improved significantly until the European Council of 17 December, since the climate against the country was becoming unfavourable in the European Commission and the EU Member states.

In a tone of alarm, all Greek media report about the rumours of a Greek exit from the Schengen Agreement, emphasising that the European Commission, the European officials and the Greek government rejected such scenarios. Indeed, Commissioner Avramopoulos said on Thursday that the end of the Schengen Agreement would be the beginning of Europe’s end, Kathimerini indicates. The newspaper further reports that Greek Alternate Minister for Immigration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas denied a lack of cooperation between Greece and the EU on the refugee issue, saying these “inaccuracies” were meant to create a negative climate for Greece.

Moreover, European Commission spokesperson Natasha Bertaud stated that the Commission’s priority is to maintain Schengen and help Greece tackle refugee flows, ERT reports. Still, the climate in Greece is tense, as a letter from Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis to the Commission has raised controversy. Commissioner Andriukaitis said he was disgusted and shocked by the conditions in which refugees were welcomed in Greece, Ta Nea reports, and that this created a negative climate for Greece among the College of Commissioners.



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