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Interview: FM spokesman Delavekouras with the Athens News Agency/Macedonian Press Agency (ANA-MPA)
Journalist: It looks like an important step was taken towards completing the EU-Turkey readmission agreement. What does this mean for Greece?
Mr. Delavekouras: This Agreement means a great deal to Greece, and we hope that its adoption will go through smoothly. This Agreement confirms that the huge problems Greece is facing on the issue of illegal migration are European problems. I only need to remind you that, according to FRONTEX reports, 90% of illegal migrants entering the EU are apprehended at the Greek border. Last year alone, 132,524 arrests were made. That is why these problems require a collective approach from the EU. The cooperation with Turkey will be monitored by the European Union itself. Moreover, the Agreement, as it is taking shape, provides for the points of concern to us and strengthens cooperation with Ankara on the issue, on a European level. And this is among Greece’s longstanding pursuits.
Journalist: We read about a three-year transitional period, during which the Agreement will pertain only to Turkish citizens. Does that mean only they will be repatriated? The majority of illegal migrants are not Turkish.
Mr. Delavekouras: The Agreement does provide for a three-year transitional period, as do other such agreements – e.g., the agreement with Russia. But in the same article, at Greece’s insistence, and just as bindingly, there is provision for the obligatory implementation of existing bilateral readmission agreements. This is an important development we achieved, because now the implementation of the bilateral readmission protocol is part of an agreement between Turkey and the EU as a whole. For Greece, during the transitional period – based on our bilateral agreement with Turkey – the readmission process will be implemented in all cases, regardless of nationality.
Journalist: The new agreement concerns only those who are apprehended at the border with Turkey?
Mr. Delavekouras: That is not the case. In fact, we achieved a very important development. The range of implementation of the Agreement extends to all of the external borders of the EU, regardless of whether they are with Turkey. This means that even along our borders in the Ionian – or the borders of France and Spain – readmission is provided for.
Journalist: The Agreement provides for two readmission procedures: one regular and one accelerated. What is the difference between them?
Mr. Delavekouras: The accelerated readmission process concerns all those who are apprehended within 20 km of the external borders of member states, regardless of whether they are borders with Turkey. In such cases, the readmission process is completed extremely quickly – 8 working days.
The regular procedure applies to all other illegal migrants apprehended within member states – beyond border regions. In such cases, the competent Turkish services will have to reply within 25 days.
Journalist: Turkey supposedly has a readmission protocol in effect with Greece already. How is this impacted?
Mr. Delavekouras: The bilateral readmission protocol will continue to be in effect for the duration of the transitional period, and will now be overseen by the EU. After the transitional period, it will be replaced by the EU-Turkey Agreement.
Journalist: How is bilateral cooperation with Turkey coming along on the illegal migration issue?
Mr. Delavekouras: In May 2010, during Mr. Erdogan’s visit to Greece, Turkey agreed to designate a port on the Turkish coast for the return of illegal migrants – something we have been after since 2002. This port has been designated – it is Dikili – and it was recently activated with the sending of the first 38 illegal migrants. At the same time, Turkey committed itself to accepting 1000 readmission requests annually from the Greek side. I want to note that each request concerns a number of illegal migrants – not just one – who have been apprehended entering our country illegally.