EU Council president Donald Tusk on Thursday assured Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras that the European Union will not abandon Greece, one of the main entry-points to Europe for refugees.
Mr Tusk’s meeting with the Greek PM took place in Athens ahead of a key meeting between EU and Turkish officials on Monday, March 7.
His stop in Greece is part of a tour, which began in Austria on Tuesday, aimed at finding common ground on the refugee crisis ahead of the summit in Brussels. During his trip he also met with leaders in Slovenia, Croatia, and FYROM. After Greece, Mr Tusk’s next stop is Turkey.
According to reports, during the meeting, Mr Tusk underlined the need to reduce the high numbers of refugee flows and also increase the return of irregular migrants to Turkey.
At a joint press conference with Mr Tsipras, he made an appeal to potential illegal economic migrants: “Do not come to Europe. Do not believe the smugglers. Do not risk your lives and your money. It is all for nothing”, he said.
Mr Tusk added that “Greece or any other European country will no longer be a transit country”.
In regards to conflicts in the EU on managing the refugee crisis, the EU Council president said that “European consensus” must be developed and stressed that Greece’s exit from the Schengen is not a solution.
According to Mr Tusk, Greece will remain part of the Schengen area.
“Excluding Greece from Schengen is neither an end nor a means in this crisis. Greece is part of Schengen, of the euro area and of the European Union and will remain so”, he said.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 122,637 refugees have entered Greece during January and February, approaching the total for the first half of 2015 (147,209).