Vienna accused of moving to isolate Athens

EPA/GEORGI LICOVSKI

The Foreign Minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Nikola Popovski (R) welcomes his Austrian counterpart Sebastian Kurz (L) in Skopje, 12 February 2016. Austrian FM Sebastian Kurz was touring the Balkans, visiting every capital except Athens

Vienna accused of moving to isolate Athens


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The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) closed its borders to Afghan refugees on Tuesday, leaving hundreds stranded on the border.

Austrian policy

Athens was soon forced to buss 450 back from its border as the main route to Central Europe was shut. Syrians without travel documents were also stranded.

States like Austria and Belgium want Greece to become a processing center for refugees. Vienna will host a Western Balkan states conference on Wednesday, but has not invited Greece. The unprecedented diplomatic move cause the Greek Foreign Minister, Nikos Kotzias, to speak of a “unilateral and unfriendly act” by Vienna. Indeed, Vienna invited all state in the region except Greece:  Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia.

Greece is also accusing Turkey of undermining an agreement with NATO to patrol its porous sea front, clumping down on human trafficking. Turkey is hosting 2.5 million Syrian refugees.

Amidst a severe economic crisis, states like Austria and Belgium are demanding from Athens to play the role of the buffer zone, processing and hosting tens of thousands of refugees. Austria is imposing a daily limit on the flow of migrants passing through, which Greece can’t do as it needs to rescue migrants at sea.

The Greek Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas told Skai TV that the Balkan corridor is a humanitarian corridor and its shutting down is the equivalent of a coup.

Western Balkan Summit agreement

Austria’s diplomatic initiative appears to be against the spirit of the October 25, 2015 agreement with Western Balkan leaders, to which Greece was a party. That agreement concluded with article 3 which stated the following:

“Leaders commit to increase the coordination of their actions relating to border management. This includes: Immediate bilateral border-related confidence-building measures, in particular, the strengthening of border cooperation, between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.”

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