politico.eu | 22 May 2023
The EU called Monday on Greece to investigate allegations that it is abandoning migrants at sea amid concerns that the center-right government in Athens is violating EU law.
The EU’s executive urged Greece to launch a probe into alleged illegal migrant deportations on the day Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called a new election after scoring a major victory Sunday, albeit one in which he failed to win an overall parliamentary majority.
EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson urged Greek authorities to take action after footage obtained by the New York Times showed vessels from the Greek coast guard abandoning migrants in a raft in the middle of the Aegean Sea.
“It is necessary that proper follow up is taken by Greek authorities, also based on the new independent monitoring mechanism,” Johansson wrote on Twitter.
“The EU Commission stands ready to take formal steps, as appropriate,” she added.
But the Commission said that it won’t take immediate action, as the investigation is currently in the hands of Greek prosecutors, its Ombudsman and the National Transparency Authority.
“We are not going to draw conclusions and announce actions or activity that we take before becoming aware of the conclusions of that investigation which will be carried out at the national level,” the Commission’s deputy spokesperson Dana Spinant told reporters at a daily briefing.
But EU lawmakers called on the Commission to adopt a tougher line against Greece, going as far as suggesting the opening of an infringement procedure, which would allow the Court of Justice of the EU to impose sanctions if it ruled that Athens violated EU law.
Mitsotakis is a key power broker in the European People’s Party (EPP), the powerful center-right group in the European Parliament.
The center-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D) and liberal Renew Europe on Monday called on Greek Commissioner Margaritis Schinas — who hails from Mitsotakis’ New Democracy party — to appear before the European Parliament’s home affairs committee.
“The mistreatment and pushback of migrants in Greece is a clear violation of EU law and international law,” S&D MEP Birgit Sippel told POLITICO.
“As the guardian of the Treaties, the Commission is supposed to protect EU law.”
The Commission declined to confirm that the Greek coast guard vessel, which reportedly carried the migrants to the edge of Greece’s territorial waters, was mostly paid for with the bloc’s funds, as reported by the New York Times.