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Greece says Europe in nervous crisis over migrants, needs to share burden

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece will press for solidarity with refugees and fair burden-sharing among European Union states at Monday’s emergency EU summit with Turkey, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Sunday, lashing out at border restrictions that led to logjams.

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Tsipras has accused Austria and Balkan countries of “ruining Europe” by slowing the flow of migrants and refugees heading north from Greece, where some 30,000 are now trapped, waiting for Macedonia to reopen its border so they can head to Germany.

With more arriving in the mainland from Greek islands close to Turkish shores, the numbers could swell by 100,000 by the end of this month, EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos projected on Saturday.

“Europe is in a nervous crisis,” Tsipras told his leftist Syriza party’s central committee. “Will a Europe of fear and racism overtake a Europe of solidarity?”

He said central European countries with serious demographic problems and low unemployment could benefit in the long term by taking in millions of refugees, but austerity policies have fed a far-right “monster” opposing the inflows.

“Europe today is crushed amidst austerity and closed borders. It keeps its border open to austerity but closed for people fleeing war,” Tsipras said. “Countries, with Austria in the front, want to impose the logic of fortress Europe.”

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann has urged Germany to set a clear limit on the number of asylum seekers it will accept to help stem a mass influx of refugees that is severely testing European cohesion in the midst of the worst refugee crisis in generations.

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Tsipras told his party “unilateral” actions to close borders to refugees were condemned by all European institutions.

“We are not pointing the finger to any other peoples or countries of Europe. We are against those who succumb to xenophobia and racism,” Tsipras said. “We will continue to save lives ... and defend the human face of Europe.”

Tsipras heads to the summit after clinching a minimum of consensus from the political opposition which has been critical of his handling of the refugee crisis.

He said Athens would push for solidarity with refugees, reduced flows from Turkey, a fair sharing of burdens and tackling smugglers. He would demand sanctions for member countries which violate the bloc’s decisions.

“With the border closed to refugees and flows to the islands continuing, it is clear that relocation to other countries is urgent and must start immediately in high numbers. We will pursue this at the summit,” Tsipras said.

Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Stephen Powell