The European Commission and the Dutch EU presidency warned on Tuesday (23 February) of a humanitarian crisis in the Western Balkans and "especially in Greece,” adding that preparation for "contingency plans" was under way.
The warning comes after border controls along the Western Balkan migration route were tightened in recent days in Austria and Macedonia.
It is the realisation of a worst-case scenario becoming reality for EU authorities, in which Greece would be in effect cut off from the Schengen area and left to cope with hundreds of thousands of stranded refugees, while still being itself in the middle of an economic and social crisis.
On Monday, Macedonia decided to deny entry to Afghan migrants and restricted access to Syrians and Iraqis.
The move followed last week's decision by Austria to cap to 80 the number of daily asylum applications and to 3,200 the number of entries, also under the condition that the people go to another country to apply for asylum.
The situation illustrates the growing rift between the actions of some EU and Balkan states and the common policies the European Commission and Germany have tried to put in place since the start of the migrant crisis last summer.
The result is growing and potentially dramatic pressure on Greece, where 2,000 to 4,000 migrants arrive on the islands each day. On Tuesday (22 February) alone, 1,130 refugees arrived at Athens Piraeus port, where they will have to be taken care of.
"We are concerned about the developments along the Balkan route and the humanitarian crisis that might unfold in certain countries especially in Greece," EU migration commissioner Dimitri Avramopoulos and Dutch minister for migration Klaas Dijkhoff said in a joint statement.
They called on "all countries and actors along the route to prepare the necessary contingency planning to be able to address humanitarian needs, including reception capacities".
Commission experts are already in Greece to assess the needs and what could be done in cooperation with the UN.
Faced with the new developments, the commission seems to be more helpless than ever.
"We are concerned by the fact that member states are acting outside of the agreed framework," commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud told journalists on Tuesday.
"We believe that member states should be working together and not against each other," she added, with Austria appearing to take the lead in moves to close the Balkan route and to cut off Greece from the rest of the Schengen zone.
On Wednesday (24 February), Vienna will host a meeting of Balkan countries involving Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia.
The commission was not invited. Neither was the Dutch presidency of the EU.
"We cannot let Greece become an open air detention camp," a senior EU diplomat said, adding that "preserving the integrity of Schengen" was crucial for the EU.
Financial and geopolitical concerns also come under consideration as Greece is engaged in an €85 billion bailout programme.
"We do not want 500,000 migrants to destabilise the Greek government and Greece itself," a source from another influential country said.
"We would not see our money back and the whole EU would dismantle."
On Tuesday, Greek government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili told journalists that Athens was "ready to handle any kind of situation that might occur due to increased migrant flows, no matter how difficult this could be".
On 12 February, the EU officially sent Greece 50 demands for stepping up control of its borders within a three-month deadline, after a commission report said that the government had "seriously neglected its obligations".
The procedure was launched mainly to give Germany and Austria a legal basis to prolong border controls in May in case all requirements were not met, which many assume will be the case.
So far, Germany's policy has been to push Greece to improve the control of its borders and negotiate with Turkey to reduce the flow of refugees, while trying to keep Greece in the Schengen system.
But at the EU summit last week, Merkel said that Austria's initiative "made matters more urgent for us to see whether we are on the right track or whether we ought to adopt alternative measures".
On Sunday (21 February), the German interior minister said that the next two weeks would be "decisive".
"If the steps agreed upon by all the European states work, then other measures won't be necessary," he said. If not, he added, "protecting the Schengen area would have to take place at different borders".
Less than a year after an exit from the eurozone was avoided at the last minute, Greece's fate will once again depend partly on Germany. This time, the deadline could be 7 March, when an EU-Turkey summit is planned.
Washington Post: “No one knows what to do with Fukushima” — Scientific American: Plant is in “crisis mode”… fuel has melted through containers — Official: Corium may never be extracted — Gov’t suggests dumping it under Pacific Ocean
Washington Post, Feb 10, 2016 (emphasis added): Five years after nuclear meltdown, no one knows what to do with Fukushima… one huge question remains: What is to be done with all the radioactive material?… Tepco has built a 1,500-yard-long “ice wall” around the four reactor buildings… however, Japan’s nuclear watchdog blocked the plan, saying the risk of leakage was still too high… [M]ost problematically, there’s the nuclear fuel from the plant itself… “The biggest challenge is going to be the removal of the nuclear fuel debris,” [Akira Ono, Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi superintendent] said. “We don’t even know what state the debris is in at the moment.”… one of the options the government is considering is building a nuclear waste dump under the seabed, about eight miles off the Fukushima coast… Many groups… staunchly oppose the idea of burying the radioactive material at sea in such a seismically active area. “At some point it would leak and affect the environment,” said Hideyuki Ban, co-director of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center.
NRA commissioner suggests plan to remove all fuel debris at Fukushima plant may not be best option — A Nuclear Regulation Authority commissioner has suggested that removing all fuel debris from reactors at the meltdown-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant may not be the best option. “I wonder if the situation would be desired that work is still underway to extract fuel debris 70 or 80 years after” the nuclear disaster, NRA Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa told reporters Friday. “There are a variety of options, including removing as much fuel debris as possible and solidifying the rest,” he added… Fuketa said that unlike the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, it is “not realistic” to construct concrete buildings to cover reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 plant because the situation is different. The commissioner also questioned whether construction of an underground ice wall around the reactor buildings to prevent radioactive water buildup will prove effective.
Scientific American, March 2016 issue: Five years ago this month… half of the facility’s uranium cores to overheat and melt through their steel containers… Today the disaster site remains in crisis mode…
While the Turkish army, following the orders of their commander in chief, carries out armed aggression against Iraq and Syria, in Turkey itself authorities have launched an all-out offensive against the civil population of its Kurdish regions. It won’t be an exaggeration to state that Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is systematically exterminating Kurds throughout Turkey which constitutes an act of genocide. All across the major cities Kurdish activists are being routinely arrested and more than two hundred offices of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party have been burned to the ground.
The Turkish authorities have decided to suppress the Kurdish drive toward independence with military power, which has already led to countless victims among the civilian population. But it doesn’t seem to stop there since the Turkish media is reporting that the government is buying tens of thousands of pieces of special equipment designed to facilitate fighting in urban areas, including sniper rifles, microwave radars to identify people behind walls, machine guns that allow the gunner to shoot around corners and 22,000 sets of helmets and body armor that provide enhanced protection for melee engagements. What this basically means is that Kurdish towns are going to be transformed into warzones.
President Erdogan has decided to turn a blind eye on the fact that raids in urban areas usually result in a large number of those unable to protect themselves being decimated, including women, children, and elders. If reports from the Kurdish populated areas are to be believed – whole towns are on the brink of a humanitarian disaster.
But it seems that Erdogan couldn’t care less, since Kurdish settlements that are now being transformed into warzones, sealed off from any politicians, journalists, or human rights defenders. Experts say that the total number of internally displaced persons has already exceeded one hundred thousand people.
In response to the inhuman actions of the so-called elected authorities, a wave of protests swept across Turkey. People have been demanding the end of the so-called “military operation” in Kurdish regions. The biggest protest occurred in Diyarbakir that has de facto become the unofficial Kurdish capital of Turkey. Peaceful demonstrations were rigidly suppressed by police units that employed water cannons and tear gas to disperse protesters. Similar clashes in south-eastern Turkey have been going on for over six months. People are leaving their homes in a hurry, streets are filled with tanks and armored vehicles. The clashes between the police and Kurdish resistance units never seem to stop.
Kurdish communities across the globe have urged the leading players to put an end to the genocide perpetrated by Turkey’s officials. Several hundreds of Kurdish activists gathered outside the UN office building in Iraqi Irbil demanding the international community to stop the ongoing destruction of the units of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, considered “a terrorist organization” in Turkey.
However, it seems that the EU is so concerned with the recent migrant crisis, that it pays little to no attention to outrageous examples of human rights violations in Turkey. The Telegraph notes that Angela Merkel is so dependent on Turkey’s ability to prevent refugees from coming to Europe that she doesn’t have the stomach to say a word against the genocidal policies of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
However, a senior official of the European Parliament – the President of the GUE / NGL Gabi Zimmer urged the EU to condemn the ongoing genocide of Kurdish population in Turkey and punish those responsible for it. It’s curious that his position is shared by a number of other European MPs.
Erdogan’s position is getting weaker by the day. In addition, the Kurdish conflict is being exploited by the West as well. However, the lack of any form of condemnation – that’s what is truly disturbing about this situation. The silence of the West and its satellite states in the Persian Gulf is clear – they would never accuse an ally that they rely on in the Syrian conflict of massive offenses against the Kurds… And nobody cares that that by killing Kurds in droves Turkey is mimicking the crimes of its predecessors who committed such acts against Armenians.
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