"Greece is committed to protecting its borders, which are also the borders of the European Union. Greece fully respects human rights during the specific process and this includes, among others, intercepting all attempts at illegal entry," Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Thursday in joint statements with Lituanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė regarding migration issues. He also offered Greece's solidarity with Lithuania in similar problems faced by that country.
Mitsotakis repeated the need for the best possible coordination of the action by EU member-states and referred to the processes currently underway to finalise the new European Pact on Migration and Asylum. "We must arrive at a common European policy, which does not excessively burden the countries that are on the external borders of the Union and ensures a fair distribution of the burden among the EU partners," he said.
The two prime ministers discussed the future of Europe, the pandemic and the plan for economic recovery after the pandemic, as well as the "instrumentalisation" of migrants by third countries.
"We agreed to coordinate our common positions during the negotiation for the European Pact for Migration and Asylum," Mitsotakis said.
"We discussed the significant migration pressures on Lithuania at this time at its eastern borders with Belarus. These problems - as we discussed - are similar to those faced by Greece for many years. They are marked by persistent migration flows combined, at times, with an orchestrated effort of a third country to put political pressure on the EU through migration, which is used as a tool for promoting geopolitical power," the Greek premier said.
He noted that Lithuania was recently facing similar challenges, stressing that "what Belarus is doing is simply unacceptable."
Using people to serve political aims and exploiting the situation through fake news, exploiting people's desire to emigrate and encouraging them to start dangerous journeys were serious violations of their human rights and an attack on human dignity, he added.
Mitsotakis said they discussed ways in which to effectively handle the many aspects that such complicated situations have, how to protect the external borders of the EU and ensure the essential conditions for the reception of migrants, speeding up the asylum application process and ensuring the swift and effective return of those not entitled to international protection.
"Greece stands at Lituania's side since the start of the recent migration issue that it faces, just as Lithuania stood by the side of Greece when we faced our own challenges last March, at our land border with Turkey. I believe that the solidarity of the countries of the Mediterranean that are on the front line in the management of the problem is also clear," Mitsotakis said.
He noted a recent visit by the Spanish prime minister to Vilnius a few days ago, as well as the statement of the Med5 group in support of effective cooperation on a European level in managing migration.
"The position of the Greek government is that the migration crisis poses significant challenges for the whole of the EU and for this reason must be handled collectively by the whole of the EU. The member-states that are on the external borders, whether in the South or the East or in North Europe, can find themselves under intense migration pressures," he added.
The Greek premier emphasised that attempted illegal sea crossings were extremely dangerous for those starting these journeys and for those encouraged and assisted in making them, who became victims of exploitation by ruthless criminal gangs.
"These networks should know that they will have to answer for their actions," he added. "Neither Greece in the south nor Lithuania in the north want to be gateways to Europe for illegal people trafficking networks or third countries that intend to put pressure on the EU," he said.
In conclusion, the prime minister expressed Greece's full support for the government of Lithuania: "The pressures you are under are not something that you should face alone. The Greek government offers whatever knowhow it possesses but also its solidarity with Lithuania and I hope this difficult situation will be resolved as soon as possible."