The refugee problem is an unprecedented challenge

HE. Mr. Dimosthenis Stoidis was born in Kavala, in 1953. He graduated with the degree of Political Science at the University of "Panteion" in Athens, and then he yields a master's degree in International Relations at the Keele University, UK.

His diplomatic career began at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece, where in different times he worked for various departments. He gradually rises in the missions of the country abroad; from third, to second, to first secretary, deputy head and finally, to an ambassador. He worked at the consulate in Venice and the embassies in Abu Dhabi, Brussels, and Paris. Before coming to Bulgaria from 2009 to 2013 he was ambassador in Serbia.

On the eve of the national holiday of the Republic of Greece and at a time when the country is subjected to exceptional migratory pressures on its border with Macedonia, due to the thousands of stuck refugees; and when the farmers' protests had barely stopped- something that also created serious problems in Bulgaria; our colleague from the "Standart" newspaper, Lyubomir Mihailov, met and talked with H.E. Mr. Dimosthenis Stoidis, on all these issues...


- Your Excellency, with the onset of the spring, the emigrational pressure in Greece will grow. Because of the deterrent measures of the neighbouring countries, on the path of the refugees to Germany, the situation in your country became more complicated. What will the Greek authorities under take?

- The refugee problem is an unprecedented challenge. The influx into our country continues unabatedly. At the moment, there are over 31,000 refugees and immigrants in Greece, of whom 11,000 are in Idomeni, on the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, waiting to cross to the other side. I will use this opportunity to emphasize that the boarders are, of course, open to all travelling people and vehicles.

As you said, the migration pressure increases with the onset of spring. This is a huge problem that must be equally dealt with, by sharing the responsibilities and burdens on the basis of the common decisions made on the 25th of October and those of the European Council on the 12th of December, last year. Nevertheless, we rely on the active participation of Turkey. Let us recall, that more than 1 million refugees entered Europe from that country. We also believe that the construction of artificial barriers in the borders does not solve the problem and it will most probably persuade the desperate and suffering people to find other ways in reaching their ultimate goal. Our country, despite the economic situation, has established reception centres for the refugees (hotspots) in the Greek islands, as well as,centres for the relocation of the refugees within the country and now has about 24,000 accommodations and 20 000 places in rooms for rent, to be financed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Simultaneously, we are trying to apply policies of voluntary and forced repatriation of illegal migrants.

- What should the European Union do to help Greece in solving the migration problem, which is not only Greek but pan-European?

- The fact is that such a complex problem, and of such size, requires comprehensive and collective decisions and not individual ones. As already stated, we believe that solidarity is needed on the transfer of migrants, as well as, commitment of the member states. Until recently, fourteen partners had not responded to the request. Strengthening of FRONTEX by technical means and human potential is required. In this regard, satisfaction has been expressed for the contribution of the partners. Also, the European Union is expected to provide substantial funds to cover urgent humanitarian needs.

- Is Bulgaria threatened by an influx of refugees from Greece and Turkey?

- I have already indicated the size of the migration flows in our country their targeting on the "Balkan route". As far as I know, there has not been established such activity in our common border. I know the Bulgarian authorities closely monitor any developments, in order to be able to respond. Certainly, we noted the recent government decisions for conducting preventive security trainings on our common border. An important point for establishing the situation on the ground, which will effectively help, is the close and continuous cooperation and communication between the competent authorities, as it is appropriate for two neighbouring partner countries.

- The Greek farmers were persuaded to end the blockades on the roads to Bulgaria, which lasted more than a month and caused problems for both sides in trade, tourism, as well as, humanitarian crisis for the drivers on the roads. What was promised the protesters and will history get repeated over time if they do not receive the required tax and pension deductions?

- The farmers' protests are already in the past, as are the tensions of the border crossings in recent days. The rhythm of the daily life of the local communities has really recovered, as well as, the movement of people and goods. This positive development can be characterized as the reaction of the farmers against the clearly expressed desire of the government to dialogue- the outcome of which seems to significantly contribute to their return to agricultural work. Regardless the retain of the right to defend the workers' demands, it is not expected, in my opinion, that kind of protests to be caused, given the outcomes of their impact on trade, tourism and on other social groups. I also think that thanks to the high and exceptional level of our interstate relations, it is appropriate to work on the public opinions of both sides of the border, in order to preserve the climate of understanding and fruitful cooperation.

- In the complex Greek financial and economic situation, how can the traditionally good Bulgarian-Greek relations in the economy be developed?

- The fact that we are allies and partners with excellent bilateral relations, from a strategic nature, highlights the framework in which we fruitfully and effectively cooperate. I believe that the economic situation in our country affects the national politics and there is no direct connection or impact on the level of our bilateral relations. Probably a previous decision, which aimed at overcoming the problem of tax evasion and modes of tripartite transactions, had caused "concern", but do not consider that this has affected the Bulgarian economy. In my judgment, in possible occurrence of such situations, it is desirable to strive to resolve them in a bilateral level, considering our partner relations.

- More and more Greek companies outsource to Bulgaria. Does this worry the government in Athens?

- For this, also, speaks out the active work of the Greek business community in the welcoming Bulgaria, which is a valuable bridge for the economic cooperation between the two neighbouring countries. The trend of moving business activities in Bulgaria by the new Greek companies, benefiting from the favourable investment climate, is balanced by the authorities in our country with efforts to stimulate the extroversion of the majority of health companies, that undoubtedly operate in our country.

- What is your prediction for the traditional summer holidays of the Bulgarians in Greece and the visits of Greeks in Bulgaria?

- I am optimistic about the development of the tourism products between our friendly countries. The high level of the services that are provided, the rapidly developing road infrastructure in Bulgaria (highway "Struma") and in Greece, the rapid access by road, the daily air connection in favour of the flawless access of Bulgarian tourists to the Greek resorts, where they are always welcome. I'm sure the same goes for the Greek visitors, with regards to the excellent ski resorts in Bulgaria. Therefore, the future of our relationship seems bright and promising.


The material is provided by the "Standart" newspaper -

Photo: Embassy of Greece in Bulgaria.