Balkan route closed

More than 12,000 people are stranded in the village of Idomeni on the border between Greece and Macedonia. They are camping in ordinary tents which are sinking into the mud after days of heavy rain and risking their lives to cross the border. Who can help the people in Idomeni?

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Kathimerini (GR) /

Artists exploiting Idomeni

The conservative daily Kathimerini criticises the fact that more and more politicians and artists are visiting the refugee camp in Idomeni:

“Idomeni has become a popular destination for press photographers, filmmakers, travellers, activists of all stripes and government representatives. And as is always the case in such scenarios, their voices are the loudest. … Idomeni is ideal for photogenic attractions. The internally renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei not only turned up at the camp but had a piano set up for a young Syrian girl to play while the waiting cameras and smart phones filmed her. Such events won't tolerate being watched from afar. If you want followers and likes you have to do extreme things on location, make a lot of noise and predict impending disaster.”

Die Tageszeitung taz (DE) /

Cynical treatment of refugees in Idomeni

Around a thousand refugees from Idomeni tried on Monday to cross a river from Greece into Macedonia, apparently prompted by a leafleting campaign. The left-wing daily taz calls this thoughtless:

“Arousing people’s hopes of fulfilling their dreams and putting their lives in danger when you really already know in advance that their expectations will be disappointed is cynical and thoughtless. The brutal Macedonian border guards are as much part of this scenario as the pictures of refugees trying to cross a fast-flowing stream. This approach has turned people into the objects of a failed political campaign.”

To Vima Online (GR) /

Athens exploiting refugees' plight

Following the leafleting campaign in Idomeni it is clear that Greece has no plan whatsoever for dealing with the refugee crisis, the liberal online newspaper To Vima writes:

“Irrespective of who organised this stampede of refugees, the scenario witnessed by the entire world exposes the lack of a plan of reaction and the pitiful weakness of the state administration. Everyone expected that this chaos, the complete absence of the state, would at some point lead to uncontrollable and dangerous situations. But the government has apparently deliberately decided to let this happen in order to exert pressure.”

Neatkarīgā (LV) /

Will refugees arrive via Russia now?

Latvians shouldn't get too excited about the closure of the Balkan route, the national-conservative daily Neatkarīgā writes fearing that soon people smugglers could shift their activities to Latvia's border with Russia:

“Now that the Balkan route has been closed, the refugees are already on the lookout for new routes. Some say one such route could lead through Russia into Latvia. ... Will Latvia have enough money in its annual budget to reinforce its eastern border? Perhaps this isn't a question about the budget, but a point of honour for those who live on the border. Everyone knows that poverty is high in the border region, and that people living there are sorely tempted to earn money with smuggled goods. Now they can also try their hand at another kind of 'business'.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Why Merkel is not helping this time

The liberal-conservative daily Der Tagespiegel takes a look at what has changed since September 2015 when thousands of refugees were allowed to travel from Hungary to Germany:

“Merkel's refusal to once again take in a large number of refugees, also to prevent further destabilisation in Greece, is being accepted without question. No protests. … These new times bear witness to a society that has grown hardened to terrible images, to tougher asylum laws, to controlled or closed borders and to the partially resigned, partially pragmatic realisation that we can't do it any more. Merkel's refugee policy was for her and for her country a crash course in the possibilities and limits of charity in practice.”

Protagon.gr (GR) /

Refugees an economic opportunity

The 36,000 migrants who are stranded in Greece could represent an opportunity for the crisis-ridden country, the liberal website Protagon points out:

“The construction and operation of refugee camps could boost growth and breathe new energy into the lifeless body of the Greek economy. But for that to happen we need a new political perspective. Our leaders and the people as a whole look at the refugee crisis as if it were a natural disaster. But whatever else is true, it's time for them to take a realistic view of it - to see it as something that could be turned into an opportunity. … The nation's goal should now be clear and cynical: money. Lots of it, for developing and operating infrastructures.”

Sega (BG) /

EU relying on non-EU member Macedonia

Macedonia is supposed to protect the EU against the storm of refugees but it won't be allowed to join it, Zoran Ilievski, adviser to the Macedonian president, criticises in an interview with the daily paper Sega:

“It's paradoxical: the refugees are coming from EU member state Greece and yet the EU demands that we secure the borders. … Although we are neither in the EU nor the Schengen Area we are expected to protect the Western Schengen states from the refugees travelling there via Schengen member Greece. The citizens of Macedonia are asking: why should we spend millions of euros on border protection without enjoying the advantages of EU membership? We gather the data of the refugees, but we can't pass it on because we don't have access to the Schengen information system. Does this mean that we're good enough to watch over the EU's house but we're not good enough to live in it?”

Kapital (BG) /

Greece doomed to suffer

The EU is standing by and watching Greece plunge into chaos, the weekly paper Kapital comments:

“Greece always suffers most from the consequences of the EU's failures. The deficiencies of the Eurozone combined with the irresponsibility of the politicians in Athens have condemned the country to years of recession. Now the EU's inability to deal with the refugee crisis threatens to plunge the country into a humanitarian disaster. Politicians stress that things won't be allowed to go that far: 'Do you seriously believe that all the euro states fought tooth and nail last year to keep Greece in the Eurozone only to let it sink into chaos a year later?', Angela Merkel recently asked on a news programme. ... But for now most people feel that the EU is leaving the Greeks in the lurch. ... Soon 70,000 refugees will be stranded in Greece.”

L'Opinion (FR) /

Emergency funds only suffice for another "jungle"

The sum of money under discussion is just a drop in the ocean, the liberal business paper L'Opinion admonishes:

“It won't be enough, unless the idea is to set up Calais-type 'jungles' on the shores of the Aegean Sea. Because the flood of refugees isn't about to dry up. ... Even if things calm down in Syria there can be no doubt that hundreds of thousands more will try their luck this year. For the second consecutive year Greece is at the centre of a grave European crisis, but this time around it's the victim of its geographic position, and not just of the negligence of its leaders. Like all other European states, Greece can't deal with this situation alone. Previously seen as the taskmaster of the Eurozone Angela Merkel is now calling for solidarity with Athens in a bid to stop the states of Europe from barricading themselves in. She is not wrong in doing so.”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

The rebirth of the Imperial Royal monarchy

The EU Commission's emergency aid package won't avert disaster, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore criticises:

“More than the upper limits on refugees the sudden revival of the Austro-Hungarian Empire is a dreadful snub for Greece. Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann worked it out with the Balkan states behind closed doors (without Athens and without informing his EU partners) in order to seal the border between Macedonia and Greece. As if the measure affected only his and Macedonia's borders, and not Greece's and the EU's too. … In the hope of patching up the growing cracks in the EU the Juncker Commission announced an aid package of 700 million euros over three years. Better than nothing - but not much. Greece needs 480 million euros simply to prevent a humanitarian disaster on its border with Macedonia, and it needs them now. ”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

EU must not leave Athens in the lurch

The other EU states have no choice but to help Greece, the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza believes:

“Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has his back to the wall. On the one hand he must stick to his austerity policy. On the other he can't expect any further financial help from Europe on the refugee issue. Countries like Austria, Hungary and Macedonia have already turned their backs on the Greeks, accusing them of being unable to get the crisis under control and protect their borders. The accusation is absurd. Because how are they supposed to do this? ... If the other countries don't finally pitch in and also take in refugees, all of Europe will pay the price. And in that case it can no longer be ruled out that Europe will gradually collapse.”

Imerisia (GR) /

Greek tourism in danger

The Greek tourism sector has seen a major drop in holiday bookings and a growing number of cancellations in recent weeks. The business paper Imerisia sounds the alarm:

“There could be no worse advertisement for Greek tourism than the 'refugee bomb' hitting the headlines in Europe and the US. The government and the Ministry of Tourism must put every effort into protecting the sector. Otherwise recession will soon be knocking on our door again and all hopes for financial recovery will be dashed. ... If far fewer tourists come this year because they're afraid of what they might find, revenues will drop. Unemployment will go up and thousands of small businesses in the tourism sector will suffer a major setback.”