Leaders from nine Mediterranean nations held a summit in Athens called the EUMED 9 on Friday afternoon to address issues such as climate change, migration, Turkey and Afghanistan, among others.
The EUMED 9 enabled representatives from Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Malta, Greece and Cyprus, Slovenia and Croatia to speak together on these pressing matters with European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen.
Greece, the host nation of the summit, experienced devastating fires just last month, when the island of Evia, along with many sites on the mainland and the Peloponnese, went up in flames, fanned by an ongoing drought and sweltering temperatures.
EUMED 9 Summit Tackles Climate Change, Immigration, Turkey, International Security
The first topic in the spotlight was climate change and the damage it is inflicting across the European continent.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated at the time that the August fires were due to climate change. After taking responsibility for what some believe was the mismanagement of the fires, he promised to prioritize the environment in his future decisions.
Before the meeting, Mitsotakis had stated that at the end of the EUMED 9 a joint statement will have been worked out “which sets out clearly the priorities of all countries of the European Mediterranean toward climate change.”
In an address to the assembly at the beginning of the afternoon PM Mitsotakis told attendees that they would be discussing “Peace, security and stability in the Mediterranean, our European Agenda and the new agenda for the Mediterranean in the context of the southern dimension of the European Neighborhood Policy.”
Later, he said “we will have an opportunity to discuss current international affairs, highlighting Afghanistan, cyberthreats, terrorism, new alliances that have been affecting us all, and our deliberations will help us reach a common ground on issues that are of vital importance to all of us.”
He noted that Italy and Spain and Portugal heavily impacted by wildfires in the past several years.
“(The climate initiative) is absolutely the right move at the right time because we all see that climate change is heavily affecting the Mediterranean region,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who also joined the summit.
All of the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris accord–the international climate treaty global leaders must adhere to to fight greenhouse gas emissions.
With Southern Europe at the epicenter of illegal immigration since 2015, when the first waves of the most recent immigrants came ashore from Turkey, migration was another vital topic of discussion at Friday’s meeting.
Not only Greece, but Italy, Spain and Malta as well have been the destinations for people who have many times been smuggled into the European Union.
Greece is particularly vulnerable to illegal immigration, with its islands dotting the eastern Aegean lying close to the coast of Turkey.
Since the summer of 2015, more than one million people crossed over the sea, some fleeing the carnage of the Syrian war but many others taking advantage of EU policies allowing them into the bloc if they applied for asylum.
The situation came to another head in the Spring of 2020, when Greece’s Evros border with Turkey became the flashpoint for illegal immigration into the EU when busloads of people were taken to the border from inside Turkey who tried to violently force their way across the border.
“One thing is sure: We will not allow a repeat of the uncontrolled migration that we experienced in 2015,” Mitsotakis said at the talks.
Already dealing with the influx of existing immigrants, Greece took a stand recently after the Taliban took over power in Afghanistan. Making it known that it would not be accepting masses of expected Afghan immigrants asking for asylum, Immigration officials stated at the outset that the country could not receive any Afghans from this new wave.
Greece has strengthened its borders, adding technological improvements and using larger foot patrols to fend off any possible overland or oversea migrant movements.
Turkey’s part in destabilizing the eastern Mediterranean, with its repeated incursions into sea territory that belongs to Cyprus and Greece in its search for oil and gas, and its purported role in fostering large-scale illegal immigration and human smuggling, was also on the table at the EUMED 9 Summit.
Misotakis applauded a joint statement from the other nations that called on Turkey to “abstain, in a consistent and permanent manner, from provocations or unilateral actions in breach of international law” in regards to their search for oil and gas in the Mediterranean.