File photo: Patrick Maisonnave ΑΝΑ-ΜΡΑ/Pantelis Saytas
“We cannot abandon Greece without help in the face of a humanitarian challenge but also in the face of neighbouring Turkey, which has repeatedly threatened to ‘open the floodgates’ to migrants,” French Ambassador in Athens Patrick Maisonnave said on Thursday, in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA).
In comments about his meeting on Wednesday with Deputy Citizen Protection Minister for Migration Policy, George Koumoutsakos, he said they discovered “a strong convergence of views between Paris and Athens on migration and asylum issues.”
Greece and France are preparing a significant and multilevel cooperation on these issues, in the context of which the French envoy has delivered a letter from France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner to Greek authorities “containing many and specific proposals”. He also noted that French Secretary of State to the Interior Minister, Laurent Nunez, is due in Athens in the coming weeks to discuss “specific details of a future European policy.”
Maisonnave noted in his statements to ANA that the European system for managing asylum applications must change, with both France and Germany desiring that these reforms “happen as soon as possible, in collaboration with the new European Commission.”
He also welcomed proposals made by Athens in Brussels, especially those concerning the repatriation of migrants, and praised the Greek government’s response to an emergency situation as “courageous”, both in terms of improving the reception system and in speeding up the processes involved.
On specific areas of cooperation between Athens and Paris, Maisonnave said that group flights back to the country of origin will be organised, in collaboration with Greece and Frontex, for those whose asylum applications have been rejected. The two sides will also step up cooperation to fight migrant trafficking, he added, while France was willing to reinforce Greek teams on the islands with interpreters, doctors and psychologists if the Greek government desired.PAPP