Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras played host to the EU’s southern member states on Friday. “Regardless of our ideological backgrounds, what unites us are our common sea and common problems, and faith in a European vision,” he said, addressing EU Mediterranean leaders that responded to his call. Present at the Athens meeting were leaders from France, Italy, Portugal and Malta, however, Spanish Prime minister Mariano Rajoy did not attend the meeting.
The EU-Med Summit comes ahead of next week’s informal EU leaders summit in Bratislava, the Slovakian capital, in the wake of the Brexit referendum that shook the European Union. It ended with a visit by EU leaders to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation’s Cultural Center (SNFCC) after joint statements by all attending heads of state and the signing of an Athens Declaration.
“We have an obligation to submit our own approach to handling and overcoming the challenges we face, replying to the forces of nationalism and xenophobia. We are not and do not aspire to be yet another initiative that divides Europe. We are and will continue to be an initiative for dialogue,” said Tsipras before announcing the decision to hold the next EU-Med Summit in Portugal.
Other leaders participating in the summit made statements. French President Francois Hollande stressed the need for unity and cohesion. “We need a program for growth and it is important to send a message of cohesion at a time of Brexit and the rise of populism in Europe,” Hollande said.
Greece rejects Dublin Regulation
Earlier, the Greek PM had said that Schengen border countries were bearing the brunt of the refugee crisis and he reminded other leaders that “the Mediterranean isn’t just a place of crisis, it’s a place of cultural ties.”
The meeting coincides with Greece’s rejection of the reactivation of the Dublin Regulation that foresees a return of asylum seekers back to the country of origin. In most cases, the country of origin is Greece that has seen its Aegean islands inundated with migrants attempting the perilous sea crossing from the Turkish coast. Following the migration crisis, a number EU partners stopped enforcing the Dublin Regulation due to Greece’s poor asylum and migrant reception centers.
Greek authorities are struggling to cope with the 60,000 migrants and refugees stranded in Greece following EU border closures. Greece is pushing for member states to abide by their pledge for a relocation program that is lagging behind.
CLICK HERE to read the full Athens Declaration of the 1st EU-Mediterranean Summit that was signed by the Mediterranean leaders.