Tuesday

20th Nov 2018

Commission: German transit zones only temporary

  • Refugees in Vienna. Germany plans transit zone along its border with Austria. (Photo: Josh Zakary)

German government plans to establish transit zones for registering people seeking protection will have to be temporary and can only lead to a limited reintroduction of border checks, the European Commission said on Tuesday (13 October).

Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel, under pressure from the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of her Christian Democrats (CDU), is mulling the idea of setting up transit zones along the German border.

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

The idea, opposed by Merkel’s coalition partners, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), is that the transit zones would facilitate the processing of migrants who are coming from safe countries, and are therefore not in need of international protection.

That way Germany could speed up asylum and extradition procedures for economic migrants from southeastern Europe, such as Kosovo and Albania, and focus on war refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We're still in talks,” Angela Merkel said on Monday according to Reuters, referring to strong reservations among the SPD.

The EU Commission on Tuesday said that while transit zones along the internal borders of the EU are not explicitly against EU law, they will have limitations.

“Such transit zones could only be exceptional measures for a limited amount of time,” EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said on Tuesday.

"Transit zones are not entirely unknown, as they help manage the movement of people in airports", Schinas said, adding: “They make sense at external borders.”

For transit zones to work along the border of Germany - the favourite destination for migrants and refugees that is expecting over a million people to arrive this year - it will have to reinstate temporary border controls in line with EU law.

According to EU rules, temporary and proportionate border checks within the Schengen visa-free zone can be reintroduced for an initial 10 days, which can be extended for 20 days, and for a maximum of three months.

Germany, Austria and Slovenia have already have border checks back in place to deal with the influx of migrants making their way via Greece and the Balkan countries.

The Commission needs to check if this measure is proportional. The EU executive said the assessment is expected to be ready “very soon.”

Germany already notified the European Commission on 9 October that border checks would be prolonged for a further 20 days.

The Commission said it is in talks with Berlin about the specific legal and practical limitations of transit zones, and how they can actually help the current situation.

EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker had a phonecall with Merkel to discuss the idea.

Merkel is also under pressure from Bavarian prime minister Horst Seehofer from CSU, whose support in the polls has been on the increase, and who blames Merkel for the scale of the refugee crisis in Germany.

Seehofer also threatened to challenge Merkel’s open door policy in Germany’s Constitutional Court last week.

An estimated 170,000 migrants arrived in Bavaria alone last month.

Turkey talks

EU Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, along with Johannes Hahn, commissioner for neighbourhood policy, and Dimitris Avramopoulos, commissioner for migration, will travel to Ankara on Wednesday.

They will discuss the so-called Action Plan, an EU “wish list” for Turkey to help stem the flow of refugees.

The commission said they already have technical teams in the Turkish capital to hammer out the details of the plan that principally asks Turkey for better protection of the EU’s external borders, and better conditions for migrants in Turkey in exchange for more aid.

An EU official said there is no agreement on the Action Plan yet between the EU and Turkey. “There was not one point in that plan that the Turks liked,” the source said, describing last week’s meeting among EU leaders and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Chancellor Merkel will also travel to Turkey next Sunday to continue the discussions.

EU says Greece, Germany breaking asylum law

The EU Commission has said it "means business" on enforcing EU asylum law, announcing 40 new cases on non-compliance as EU leaders meet on the migrant crisis.

Germany piles on the pressure in refugee talks

Chancellor Merkel called for an emergency EU Summit on asylum next week, a few hours after her interior minister hinted at cuts in EU funding for countries opposed to sharing refugees.

Germany reinstates EU border controls

Germany has introduced temporary border controls to block the free movement of refugees, putting pressure on eastern EU states to take more migrants.

Xenophobia on the rise in Germany, study finds

Germans, in particular those living in the east, are demonstrating higher levels of xeonphobia and backlash against religious minorities than when compared to five years ago, according to a new study.

News in Brief

  1. Future of EU's Mediterranean naval mission in doubt
  2. EU budget talks for 2019 collapse
  3. EU mulls new Russia sanctions over Ukraine 'elections'
  4. EU farm chief 'confident' sugar prices will recover
  5. Researcher: EU expert groups still imbalanced and opaque
  6. Nature groups disappointed by EU fishing deal
  7. DUP chief says Irish backstop was 'tactic' by EU
  8. Ireland extradites Polish man despite rule of law concerns

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Cyprus and Greece to create EU spy academy
  2. MEPs likely to delay vote on greater transparency
  3. Cold shoulder for Franco-German euro budget plan
  4. Whistleblower: Danske Bank gag stops me telling more
  5. Spain raises Gibraltar, as EU and UK talk post-2020 relationship
  6. Panic is not answer to EU's security challenges
  7. Dutch flesh out proposal for EU human rights sanctions
  8. EU cheerleaders go to Russia-occupied Ukraine

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us