Spain urges strengthening of EU border controls

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Leaders of Spain and Greece call for strengthening of EU border control agency to contain the influx of illegal immigrants.

Madrid – The leaders of Spain and Greece on Monday called for a strengthening of EU border control agency Frontex to help stem the tide of illegal immigration into the bloc.

"The need to strengthen border controls is clear and for that Frontex is essential. It needs more resources and more commitment from the EU countries," Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero told reporters.

He was speaking at a joint news conference with his Greek counterpart Costas Karamanlis.

Spain will focus on strengthening Frontex and on seeking repatriation agreements with undocumented immigrants' countries of origin when it takes over the EU presidency in the first half of 2010, he added.

The Greek prime minister, whose country is struggling to contain an influx of illegal immigrants from Turkey that has fuelled social tensions, said "it is clear that supporting Frontex interests us".

Karamanlis also repeated a Greek proposal that a European coast guard to be set up to improve maritime surveillance.

Frontex is the agency responsible for cooperation among member countries regarding border security of the 27-nation European Union.

It focuses mainly on curbing illegal immigration from Africa, with a naval air surveillance mission.

The two leaders also agreed to give greater importance to the EU's relations with countries of origin of illegal immigrants, or the nations where they travel through.

"I must insist: if we want to control illegal immigration, it is essential to have a policy of cooperation with countries of origin and transit," said Zapatero.

"European diplomacy has room to put in place a more concrete policy, especially in relation to the economic situation in the countries of origin," added Karamanlis, referring to financial aid.

Both Spain and Greece are key entrypoints into Europe for illegal migrants.

AFP / Expatica

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