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Greek ambassador to Austria has been recalled amid sharp divisions among EU states over the refugee crisis.

The move came after Austria hosted a meeting with Balkan states on the refugee issue, to which Greece was not invited.

Meanwhile, EU and Balkan interior ministers have met in Brussels to try to heal rifts over the refugee issue.

Speaking afterwards, the EU’s migration commissioner warned that the bloc’s migration system could be days away from complete breakdown.

Dimitris Avramopoulos said member states had until a March 7 summit with Turkey to curb the number of refugees.

“In the next 10 days, we need tangible and clear results on the ground,” he told reporters.

“Otherwise there is a risk that the whole system will completely break down.”Eu refugees Greece

Austria, Serbia and Macedonia have taken their own steps to limit entry to refugees, angering Greece, which fears the controls will cause a bottleneck. The measures also threaten Europe’s Schengen passport-free travel area that spans 26 countries.

In a statement, the Greek foreign ministry said that the ambassador was being recalled “in order to safeguard the friendly relations between the states and the people of Greece and Austria”.

It said that problems facing the EU “cannot be dealt with, with thoughts, mentalities and extra-institutional initiatives that have their roots in the 19th Century”.

Speaking in Brussels, Greek Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas said his country would “not accept becoming Europe’s Lebanon, a warehouse of souls”.

Lebanon is home to about a million of the four million Syrians who have fled to neighboring countries.

More than one million refugees arrived in the European Union in 2015, many of them fleeing the civil war in Syria. So far this year, 100,000 refugees have entered the EU illegally – nearly all of them arriving in Greece. More than 400 have died on the sea crossing from Turkey.

The surge in migration coupled with the failure to agree an EU-wide response has led to warnings about the bloc’s survival.

On February 24, representatives from 10 Balkan states attended talks in Austria and agreed to co-ordinate action to limit the flow of refugees.

The meeting drew an angry response from Greece, with the foreign ministry warning that “responsibility for dealing with the migration and refugee crisis cannot burden one country”.

EU interior ministers meeting in Brussels on Thursday have been hearing plans drawn up by Austria and Balkan countries that seek to restrict the numbers entering their borders.

Measures include fingerprinting all entrants and turning back anyone without a passport or holding fake documents.

The countries have also pledged to accept only those they deem to be in need of protection – interpreted by some governments as meaning only Syrians and Iraqis.

Over the weekend, Macedonia barred entry to Afghans at its border with Greece. Angry protests erupted at the border crossings and Greece was forced to transport hundreds of Afghan back to Athens.

The EU has warned of a humanitarian crisis if the disagreements are not resolved.

European Council President Donald Tusk also warned that the failure to make progress towards resolving the crisis could increase the likelihood of the UK voting to leave the EU this year.

Greece has threatened to block all decisions at EU migration summits next month if member states do not agree to take in quotas of refugees.

Hungary announced on February 24 that it would hold a referendum on whether to accept mandatory EU quotas for relocating refugees.

PM Viktor Orban said the quotas “could redraw Europe’s cultural and religious identity”.

In 2015, Hungary’s right-wing government built a razor-wire fence on its borders with Serbia and Croatia to try to limit the flow of refugees.


Denmark has decided to tighten its border controls with Germany, hours after Sweden imposed similar measures to deter refugees entering from Denmark.

Danish PM Lars Lokke Rasmussen said the decision was “not a happy moment” but Denmark “must respond” to Sweden’s restrictions.

Danish police will carry out border spot checks for the next 10 days.

The two countries are the latest to impose controls in Europe’s Schengen passport-free travel area.Denmark border control refugee crisis

In a letter to the European Commission, Inger Stojberg, Denmark’s integration minister, said the controls would focus initially on the border with Germany but may be extended to all of Denmark’s borders.

Inger Stojberg said the measures taken by Sweden meant Denmark was “faced with a serious risk to public order and internal security because a very large number of illegal immigrants may be stranded in the Copenhagen area”.

The new controls would not cause a problem for “ordinary” Danes and Germans, Lokke Rasmussen said.

“We are introducing temporary border controls, but in a balanced way,” the prime minister said.

“If the European Union cannot protect the external border you will see more and more countries forced to introduce temporary border controls.”


Sweden’s trains to and from Denmark will be canceled starting with January 4, 2016, over ID checks.

The state-owned train operator SJ will stop services because it cannot carry out ID checks demanded by the government to stem the influx of refugees.

Under a new Swedish law, transport companies will be fined if travelers to Sweden do not have valid photo ID.

SJ said it would not have time to check people traveling between Copenhagen and Malmo over the Oresund bridge.

Sweden has already received about 150,000 asylum applications in 2015.

The government has secured a temporary exemption from the EU’s open-border Schengen agreement, in order to impose border controls.Sweden trains Oresund bridge

About 18,000 people commute to work daily across the Oresund bridge, Radio Sweden reports.

SJ said all services between Denmark and Sweden would be suspended from January 4 when the new law comes into force.

“Our planning of the introduction of ID border checks in Copenhagen before the departure of SJ trains bound for Sweden has shown that we are currently unable to carry out ID checks in accordance with the requirements of the new law in the amount of time allowed,” the company said on its website.

SJ added it had chosen to “cancel its departures until there is a working solution in place”.

Oresundstag, another train operator which runs a Sweden-Denmark commuter service, said it would remain in operation after January 4, but scale back rush-hour traffic to allow time for the checks, according to reports.

One million migrants have arrived in Europe by land or sea in 2015, the International Organization for Migration says.

Along with Germany, Sweden is one of the main destinations of choice – with some 150,000 applying for asylum in 2015.

In contrast, Denmark expects to receive about 20,000 asylum seekers in 2015.

Last week a Danish government proposal to seize asylum seekers’ valuables to make them pay for their stay drew sharp criticism in international media.