Europe recognizes the burden Turkey has to bear hosting millions of migrants, but continuous Turkish threats over the issue are counterproductive, Greek Alternate Citizen Protection Minister responsible for migration policy George Koumoutsakos said to Turkish Deputy Interior Minister Ismail Catakli on Thursday evening.
During a meeting of the two ministers in the Austrian capital on the sidelines of the Vienna Migration Conference 2019, Koumoutsakos said, "Europe recognizes the heavy burden Turkey has assumed with millions of migrants, but Europe cannot act under continuous Turkish threats and blackmail, which are entirely unproductive and unecessary."
He added that "Ankara ought to understand that using the migrant and refugee issue for political leverage cannot serve as a way of approaching Europe."
Koumoutsakos referred to the repeated threats by Turkey that it will "open the gates" to migrant flows to the Aegean Sea, and pointed out that such comments attract more migrants to the coast of Turkey and enable human trafficking rings. Following the voting of a new law on migration, he said, and the government's new operational plan, Greece will practically move to reduce migrant and refugee flows and increase the number of those returned under the regulations of the EU-Turkey Joint Statement.
The Greek minister called on Turkey to assume its share of obligations, uprooting human trafficking rings on its territory and guaranteeing the collaboration of Turkish authorities with the corresponding Greek ones to manage trafficking rings.
In Vienna Koumoutsakos is also scheduled to have a series of meetings on Friday, following up on recent Washington meetings on the migration issue.
The Vienna Migration Conference 2019 includes ministers of several countries discussing EU policy, and is organized by the International Center for Migration Policy Development, a think-tank headed by former Deputy Chancellor and former Foreign Minister of Austria Michael Spindelegger. The Center is supported by 17 countries and its mission is to help governments find viable solutions for migration challenges.