Monday

19th Aug 2019

Greece risks Schengen expulsion

  • Greek islands and Turkey: 'It's a myth that Greece can't secure the borders. It has one of the largest navies in Europe' (Photo: nasa.org)

Threats are mounting to expel Greece from the EU's border-free Schengen zone, as interior ministers meet on Monday (25 January) in Amsterdam to discuss extending border controls for two years.

Austria’s interior minister, Johanna Mikl-Leitner, said on her way into the informal meeting in the Dutch city: “It's clear that that if we can't secure the Greek-Turkish border, the Schengen border will move to central Europe.”

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Iraqi family arrives on Greek island of Kos, from Turkey, last September. Boat contained 50 people (Photo: ifrc.org)

“We have to name things by name, everyone knows we need to secure borders,” she said, adding that Greece must act as soon as possible to protect the EU’s external borders.

“It's a myth that Greece can't secure the borders. It has one of the largest navies in Europe,” she said, adding that she is “sure” Europe needs a common border and coastal guard.

Luxembourg’s minister of internal security, Etienne Schneider, disagreed with his Austrian colleague, however.

He said, on his way in, that “we need to preserve Schengen”, and that the recent Luxembourg EU presidency sent recommendations to individual member states on what they could do better.

Schengen 'existential threat'

The discussions come amid moves by Germany and Austria to tighten border checks, with German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere last week announcing indefinite controls.

EU law limits internal border checks to six months, but they can be expanded to two years should Greece's external borders prove to pose an existential threat to the passport-free zone.

With the German border check deadline approaching in May and expectations high that many more refugees will arrive in summer, talks of a Greek Schengen expulsion have resurfaced.

Similar statements were made last year by Slovak prime minister Robert Fico.

“We just cannot put up with a member country that has openly given up on safeguarding the Schengen area borders," he said at a parliamentary hearing in December.

The central European nation is taking over the EU presidency in July and is pushing to launch a new EU border agency, which could post guards to the Greek external border even if Athens dosn’t want it.

Ongoing evaluation

The Greeks, for their part, face an almost insurmountable task given they have to patrol their many islands, while thousands continue to disembark from Turkey on a daily basis.

Despite having asked other EU states for help, Athens has had to face the mass movement of refugees from Turkey mostly alone.

So-called hotspots, an EU plan to screen, register, and identify arrivals on the islands, have largely failed as EU states lag far behind on pledges to send personnel and staff to help.

Over 800,000 people arrived last year alone, with Greek islanders and local fisherman helping and rescuing thousands.

In November, under pressure from EU governments, Athens agreed to also increase registrations.

Meanwhile, EU officials late last year were sent to spot check Greek border gaps as part of a Schengen evaluation report.

The report, which will feed into whether or not to expel Greece from Schengen, has been kept under wraps from the public.

An EU official told MEPs in the European Parliament civil liberties committee in December that the report would soon be submitted and adopted by the Schengen evaluation committee.

Sources say the commission's report on Greece's inability to protect the external borders, which is needed to trigger the temporary expulsion of Greece from Schengen, is still in the making, and will be ready by the next EU summit, in mid-February.

Austria imposes asylum cap to 'shake up' Europe

Austria to place cap on number of asylum claims it will process. German president, same day, said it may be “morally and politically” necessary to limit numbers.

Analysis

EU mantra of 'solidarity' lost on asylum

Two years after EU leaders made big promises on migration, following the Lampedusa tragedy, and their words still mean almost nothing in practice.

Greece rejects Schengen threats as 'blame game'

Greek officials reject mounting EU criticism of their leaky borders as a "blame game ... punishment," amid calls to expel Greece from the passport-free Schengen area.

EU states push for two-year border controls

EU member states are looking at legal ways to keep border controls in place for up to two years, as the migration influx puts unprecedented pressure on the passport-free travel zone.

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. EU ends silence on Hong Kong protests
  2. Is Salvini closing just harbours or also the rule of law?
  3. No-deal Brexit would seriously harm UK, leaked paper says
  4. Selmayr did not keep formal records of lobby meetings
  5. EU asked to solve migrant rescue deadlock
  6. Internal EU paper: Second Brexit vote was no longer 'distant dream'
  7. EU has 'zero incentive' to break open 'trilogue' deals
  8. Denmark plans import ban on EU-approved pesticide

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us