Cypriot Interior Minister Nicos Nouris is in Athens this weekend where he is attending a MED5 meeting on immigration, with some of the bloc’s Mediterranean members tackling issues stemming from Brussels’ new migration proposals that divide the union.
(Click here for an update to the story)
Interior and migration ministers from five Mediterranean frontline countries in the EU - Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, and Spain – are meeting in Athens Friday and Saturday on an imitative taken by Greece to formulate common views and proposals on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.
According to media reports, Greek Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarachi has asked for “basic improvements” on the new EU agreement on migration and asylum, saying there were "many pending questions from the state members to the European Commission that must be clarified.”
The new pact includes a roadmap which sets out a series of initiatives, such as plans on Integration and Inclusion, a Strategy on Schengen, a strategy on voluntary returns and reintegration, an operational strategy on returns, an EU Action Plan against Migrant Smuggling, and a Skills and Talent package.
But some initiatives still remain under discussion among member states, following a JUMBO meeting earlier this week when EU interior ministers met via teleconference for the first time after six years.
'I don’t accept the attempt by some circles to mix it all together to build a narrative that weakens Frontex,' Schinas said
European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas, who is tasked with coordinating the bloc’s migration efforts, called for a “win-win” solution for member states and neighboring countries towards a safer management of migration.
But the Greek-born commissioner, who is also attending the MED5 in Athens, also alluded to a “meaningful external dimension” of migration policy.
“Because we will never be able to manage internally unless we are able to manage externally too,” Schinas said.
Last month Schinas appeared to defend Frontex, the EU’s border agency that is facing accusations of illegal pushbacks of asylum seekers.
“I don’t accept the attempt by some circles to mix it all together to build a narrative that weakens Frontex at a time when we need the agency the most,” Schinas said.
EU member states jointly adopted a man date and budget for the border agency, and that includes the Republic of Cyprus which is also under fire over pushback allegations.
This week Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic called on Cypriot authorities to ensure that independent and effective investigations are carried out into allegations of illegal pushbacks and ill-treatment of arriving migrants including refugees.
Nouris had replied to the Bosnian-born commissioner saying provisions of the EU aquis have been “taken into consideration” while he also pointed out to reporters that the government was facing challenges in its effort to tackle a backlog of asylum cases.
France and Portugal were not said to be attending the Mediterranean member meeting in Athens.
Nicosia has repeatedly accused Turkey of coordinating a push of asylum seekers onto the island.