BERLIN (Reuters) - A deal between the European Union and Turkey to stem a flow of migrants has largely held, though Athens is watching with concern events unfolding in Turkey, where an attempted coup was put down last month, Greece’s migration minister told the German newspaper Bild.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said over the weekend that Ankara would back out of the agreement with the EU if the bloc did not deliver the promised visa-free travel for Turks in return.
The 28-nation EU depends on Ankara to enforce the deal, which has sharply cut the number of refugees and migrants leaving Turkey for Greece. Grappling with a major financial crisis, Greece struggled to cope with the influx.
“Up to now the agreement is well-kept,” Greek migration minister Yiannis Mouzalas said in a transcript of remarks.
“...Of course we are worried, but up to now, the number of people arriving on our islands is not an indication of non- compliance towards whatever has been agreed.”
Greece’s migration ministry issued what it said were written responses to Bild questions after the German publication quoted Mouzalas as saying the EU needed a ‘Plan B’ to counter Turkish threats to back out of the accord.
“We are very concerned,” Bild quoted Mouzalas saying. “We need, in any case, a Plan B.”
The Greek ministry appeared to distance itself from that remark, with no reference to that particular quote in the transcript it released on Wednesday evening.
German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said on Monday Europe would not be blackmailed by Turkey in talks on visa liberalization, which have been hampered by a dispute over Turkish anti-terrorism legislation and a crackdown after the abortive coup on July 15.
Mouzalas also called for a fairer distribution of refugees in Europe, many of whom arrive from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and head for Germany and Sweden. Some countries, including Hungary and Slovakia, have objected to a proposed EU quota system for resettling migrants across the bloc.
“The refugees must be distributed right away to all EU countries - and not just to individual (states),” he said.
More than 257,000 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea from the start of this year to July 27, and at least 3,000 have died, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Tuesday.
These figures represent a sharp increase from the same period in 2015, the IMO said.
Writing by Paul Carrel, Michele Kambas; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Larry King