June 23. 2024. 12:57

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With or without EU money, Greece says will finish border fence

Greece will finalise the construction of a fence at the land border with Turkey with or without financial support from the EU, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Thursday amid strong reactions from the opposition who accused him of fishing extreme right votes ahead of the May elections.

“With or without European money, the fence on the Evros will be completed”, the conservative Greek leader said.

Greece has already built a 37.5-kilometre fence along the Evros River crossing at the border with Turkey and has decided to extend it by another 35 kilometres.

The construction was funded nationally as the European Commission has repeatedly rejected calls from Athens to use EU funds.

“As a result of the Greek intervention, Europe changed its attitude and now recognises the importance attributed at the European level to the need to protect the external borders,” Mitsotakis added.

In a vote at the EU Parliament on Thursday, lawmakers from the Socialists (S&D), the EU Left, centrist Renew Europe and the Greens managed to pass an amendment rejecting EU funding to build fences across the bloc.

The amendment was also backed by half lawmakers of the European People’s Party (EPP), the political family of Mitsotakis’ New Democracy. It was rejected by some EPP members, the far right and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR).

The ruling New Democracy party accused main opposition Syriza party (EU Left) of undermining the country’s security by backing such an amendment.

For its part, Syriza replied by calling Mitsotakis a fake pro-European politician.

“It is funny that Mr Mitsotakis pretends to be the Europeanist and supporter of European policies, having as allies only Giorgia Meloni, Austria and the extreme right of the European Parliament,” a Syriza source said.

The opposition says Mitsotakis is trying to fish votes from the extreme right in light of the rise of “The Greeks” party led by Ilias Kasidiaris, a former lawmaker of neo-Nazi Golden Dawn who is now imprisoned.

Whether his party will be allowed to participate in the 21 May elections is still to be decided by Greek courts, but a poll published by MEGA TV on Thursday found that the party will enter the parliament as it scores 3.8%, above the 3% threshold.

EPP’s sensitive balances

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (ECR) and Mitsotakis have said they are on the same page on many issues in the EU Council, including migration.

At the EU level, EPP chief Manfred Weber, a close ally of Mitsotakis, attempted to approach Meloni and seek potential collaboration earlier this year.

However, his attempt was firmly rejected by traditional centre-right parties within the EPP.

Weber’s intention was particularly slammed by the German Christian Democrats (CDU) and his own Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU) party.

EURACTIV was informed that some in the EPP also questioned his leadership, saying that from now no such moves should be made without a prior agreement within the party.

Concerns over EPP chief’s leadership style, second salary

Officials of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) have voiced concern about Manfred Weber’s leadership style and his attempts to collaborate with Italy’s far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni without prior consultations.

(Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com)