Sunday

22nd Apr 2018

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.”

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • 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.

News in Brief

  1. Audit office: Brexit 'divorce' bill could be billions higher
  2. MEPs urge better protection for journalists
  3. Dieselgate: MEPs back greater role for EU in car approvals
  4. European parliament adopts new organic farming rules
  5. EU granted protection to half million people in 2017
  6. Report: Facebook to carve 1.5bn users out of EU privacy law
  7. Greek court ruling permits migrants to travel to mainland
  8. Commonwealth summit hopes for trade boost after Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  2. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  3. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  4. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  5. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  6. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  7. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  10. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  11. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia

Latest News

  1. ECJ ruling set to end 10-year 'mouth tobacco' lobbying saga
  2. Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK
  3. MEP friendship groups offer 'backdoor' for pariah regimes
  4. Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform
  5. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups
  6. New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability
  7. Draghi to stay in secretive 'lobby' group
  8. Bulgaria offers lesson in tackling radical-right populists

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  2. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  3. Europea Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  4. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  5. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  6. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  7. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  8. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  9. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  10. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  12. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights