Southern EU leaders target climate change at Greek summit

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen poses prior to the start of the Meeting of the College of Commissioners at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on September 14 2021. (Photo by JULIEN WARNAND / POOL / AFP)

ATHENSGreece (AFP) – Greece is hosting a summit of southern EU leaders on Friday that will focus on climate change and “security challenges” including migration and the Afghan crisis.

Greek government spokesman Yiannis Economou said the one-day meeting, with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen in attendance, will address issues “jeopardising safety and stability in the Mediterranean”.

The agenda includes migration and the situation in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover but Economou said Athens was placing particular emphasis on the need for joint action to tackle climate change.

Von der Leyen will join the leaders in a separate meeting on climate change and its effects on the Mediterranean, the office of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

Mitsotakis has said protection of biodiversity and better cooperation on tackling wildfires will be priorities at the meeting, generally known as the Med7.

Greece was badly hit by wildfires this summer, losing over 100,000 hectares of forest and agricultural land in the process.

The last summit in 2020 issued a warning to Turkey over its confrontational behaviour in the Mediterranean.

This year, the EU is concerned that chaos in Afghanistan could spark an influx of refugees similar to 2015’s migrant crisis.

An Afghan boy stands next to a member of the Taliban in front of the Pul-e-Charkhi prison in Kabul on September 16, 2021. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP)

Greece and other southern EU states, the countries that deal with the most migrants, have long complained over a lack of support from their northern peers.

The EU has now committed 276 million euros ($326 million) for new migrant camps on the Greek islands that receive most arrivals by sea from neighbouring Turkey.

The Med7 is a loose grouping established almost a decade ago by Cyprus, France, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain. This year, Croatia and Slovenia are also expected to attend.