Greece has threatened not to sign off on the final conclusions of an EU summit on migration and Britain’s membership, holding out for assurances EU states will not shut borders over the migrant crisis, government officials said on Friday.
“We can’t agree unless there is a clear statement in the conclusions that there won’t be any unilateral (migrant) action until the next summit. No borders should close until then,” one of the officials told Reuters.
Although not related to the issue of Britain’s renegotiation of its terms with the EU – a move ahead of a referendum on whether Britain stays in – the Greek move could complicate an already delicate situation.
The official said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has been given assurances by Germany and France that they would support his position on migrants. Other countries have expressed differences, however.
On the eve of the summit, Austria infuriated European Union peers by insisting on capping the number of migrants it takes in, undermining Germany’s push to seek a joint EU solution to the bloc’s refugee crisis in tandem with Turkey.
Austria’s move to tighter border controls has been seconded by Slovenia, which plans similar policies in solidarity.
Four sceptical eastern European members have also floated a fallback policy of ringfencing Greece to keep the migrants they expect to land there from proceeding through Macedonia and Bulgaria to other EU countries.
EU leaders decided to hold a special summit with Turkey in early March to make a joint plan to stem the influx work better and said there was no alternative to a common European approach to the migration wave that exposed deep differences in the EU.
The vast majority of migrants and refugees enter the EU in Greece and Athens is fearful that closed borders would leave thousands stranded there.
“It doesn’t make sense for Greece, which has made every effort to handle the refugee issue to carry all of the burden and risk being isolated,” an official said.