Leading members of all Riigikogu parties agree new migrant crisis avoidable

All the guests on Wednesday night's
All the guests on Wednesday night's "Esimene stuudio", with host Andres Kuusk in the chair. Source: ERR

Representatives of all five Riigikogu parties discussed the current situation on the Turkey-Greece border on ETV current affairs talk show "Esimene stuudio", noting, in a moment of relative consensus, that it had not yet been brought under control, though a new migration crisis of the same magnitude as 2015 onwards could be avoided.

Foreign minister: Europe's attitude changing

Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said that the Estonian government's clear line is to avoid mistakes he said were made in Europe in 2015. 

"I see that this attitude has actually changed in other European countries," Reinsalu said.

"I hope that interior ministers will decide this evening to support Greece and its border protection to the tune of €350 million. It is absolutely essential that Europe be able to control its own borders. This is a security issue. I would like to hope that we can achieve this together with European countries," he continued.

Reform Party MP: Turkey leader playing mind games

Reform Party MP Eerik-Niiles Kross said Turkish President Erdogan's behavior was in part psychological in nature.

"The direct threat from the Turkish president towards Europe also causes us to cast our minds back to the previous refugee crisis. Apparently, as of now, refugees have already gotten wind of the news that Turkey's borders are being opened and are mobile. This is quite worrying," said Kross, though added that there were no signs that the developments constituted a genuine refugee crisis.

"If this is to be politically directed by Turkey, then it must also be simper to respond politically," he went on.

SDE MP: EU decision-making crystallizing

Social Democratic Party (SDE) MP and erstwhile party leader Jevgeni Ossinovksi said that recent decisions taken in Europe were bringing better coherence and foresight to the arena.

"It could be said that the EU, in its decision-making processes and its potential assistance to Member States, is certainly in better shape than last time," Ossinovski said.

"On the other hand, it is clear that while there are currently 3.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, plus about one million on the Syria-Turkey border, meaning when such large numbers start moving towards Europe at the same time, 20 border guards and two boats don't present that much of an obstacle," he added.

EKRE MP: Greece could do more

Leo Kunnas, and MP from the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) said that were all EU countries to contribute to the Greek crisis with border guards and equipment, the situation in that country would get much easier. 

Greece itself could boost its army's readiness and deploy it on the border, Kunnas added.

"This problem is now effectively preventable and resolvable if Greece itself makes efforts, the EU countries as a whole make efforts, and the EU leadership does not lose its nerve," said Kunnas.

Center Party education minister: North Africa the real focus

According to education minister Mailis Reps (Center), the situation is no longer a question of Syrian refugees, but of tensions throughout North Africa. 

"There is more instability in North Africa than in Syria. And it is North Africa which is bearing the brunt of all the immigration flows in Africa./.../ According to international organizations, about 20 million people are moving through this continent," Reps said.

"This kind of pressure, if the borders in Europe are open, makes the potential risk of human flows very, very high," added Reps.

Testing phase

Reinsalu noted that maintaining a border is important since if it is broken, this starts a snowballing of effects.

Reinsalu also stressed the need for a political solution between the EU and Turkey.

Kross argued that the message that the border will remain firms is reaching the ears of the masses and having an effect. 

"I'm pretty sure this sends out a signal and is going to slow down that flow," Kross said.

Kross also called the current phase one of testing on the part of the Turkish leader.

"Erdogan is watching how Europe will react. Refugees and their conveyors are also watching," Kross said.

According to Ossinovski, the refugee crisis cannot be solved by physical force, which is also ethically unacceptable.

Presenter Andres Kuusk asked for the foreign minister's position on the possible introduction of refugee quotas. 

"The clear line for this government to bring migration pressures closer to Europe via quotas is wrong and went wrong in 2015. Quotas, on the contrary, act as a catalyst for migration," Reinsalu said.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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