Greece’s migration row with Austria intensified on Friday, with Athens refusing a visit from Austria’s interior minister whom it accused of "falsifying the truth" over its border control efforts.
A foreign ministry source confirmed a report by state news agency ANA that a request by Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner to visit Athens had been turned down.
"We confirm the report," the source said.
The snub came a day after Greece recalled its ambassador to Vienna for consultations in retaliation for Austria’s decision to leave Athens out of a Balkans migration meeting this week.
Austria has repeatedly accused Greece of failing to police its borders properly and allowing an excessively high number of migrants to continue their journey to western Europe.
At a meeting of EU interior ministers on yesterday, Mikl-Leitner called into question Greece’s place in the passport-free Schengen zone.
"If it is really the case that the Greek external border cannot be protected, can it be still a Schengen external border?" she wondered.
An angry Greek Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas later retorted that Mikl-Leitner was "falsifying the truth" and "dragging Austria into increasingly hostile acts towards Greece and the EU."
"Our country guards its borders, which are also Europe’s borders, in the best possible way. This is a fact confirmed by (EU border agency) Frontex, the European Commission and other institutions," Mouzalas said in a statement.
The Austrian interior ministry said Mikl-Leitner told her Greek colleagues in Brussels that she could come to Greece "to explain Austria’s position in detail directly".
The ministry said it remained available "if Greece prefers to conduct the conversation at a later stage".
Greece believes Austria has encouraged a series of border restrictions by Balkan states along the migrant trail to northern and western Europe that has caused a bottleneck on its soil.
Thousands of refugees have been stranded in Greece after Macedonia denied all passage to Afghans and ramped up document controls for Syrians and Iraqis.
On Friday, there were some 4,000 people waiting to cross at the border post of Idomeni and some two dozen buses full of migrants parked a short distance away, local police said.