Greece recalled its Ambassador to Austria, Ms. Chrisoula Aliferi, last Friday in reaction to Austrian plans to reduce the flow of refugees into Europe. These plans, drafted in conjunction with representatives from Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia on Thursday, outlined policies to close the Balkan states’ borders to refugees, according to EU Observer. The plans involve, to a large extent, commitments to increase the number of police officers stationed on each state’s borders.
Greece, however, did not receive an invitation to the meeting, which Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras considered a hostile act by Vienna. The Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a press release distributed after the Ambassador’s recall, stressed that problems affecting the entire European Union cannot be addressed with thoughts, mentalities and “unconventional initiatives” of the 19th century – a reference to autonomous states acting independently of a broader union. The Greek government also criticized the closing of Balkan borders, noting that the decisions of political leaders cannot be overruled by those of police officers.
The Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Paolo Gentiloni, supported the Greek position and condemned unilateral initiatives in the refugee issue. In addition, Greek Interior Minister Yannis Mouzalas told Euronews on February 25 that “Austria used to be a friendly country, now it’s taking a hostile action.” Mouzalas added, “We don’t describe it as a hostile country, but we clearly say that this specific action is hostile and painful for our country and also for Europe.” He emphasized that Austria’s policy undermines the European Union’s unified plan of action for managing the refugee crisis.
The influx of refugees has clearly sparked severe conflict within the European Union, with many countries choosing to implement their own agendas while disregarding EU policies. Only time will tell whether the cohesion of the EU will manage to survive this prolonged crisis.