19th Oct 2018

Athens ponders defence options on migrant crisis

  • Athens is looking at options to get the ministry of defence involved in managing hotspots (Photo: Gerard McGovern)

The European Commission is demanding that Greece make more efforts on migration amid moves by Athens to get its ministry of defence involved in managing asylum screening zones at so-called hotspots.

On Tuesday (2 February), the Brussels-executive announced it would send a list of recommendations to the Council, which represents the member states, to help Greece plug the gaps at its borders.

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

Details of the recommendations remain confidential but the commission said in a statement it spanned border surveillance, fingerprinting, identification, among other issues.

Greece will have three months to implement the proposals at the expense of possibly prolonging internal border controls elsewhere in the EU to up to two years.

EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told euro-deputies in Strasbourg that Greece was making efforts and progress despite announcing last week Athens was "seriously neglecting" its duties to manage its frontiers.

"The commission is putting every effort to achieve normalisation of the Schengen functioning and in parallel is preparing for all options," said Avramopoulos.

He added ending Schengen or ejecting Greece from the passport-free zone was not part of those options. He noted the flow of irregular migrants to Greece and the Western Balkans "continues unabated".

Some 62,000 people arrived on the Greek Aegean islands since the start of the year, according to the International Organization for Migration. Around 360 have died attempting to make the journey.

Greek ministry of defence

Athens, for its part, is scrambling to get its hotspots up and running, with reports the military could step in to get them operational within two weeks.

Greek prime minister Tsipras on Sunday (31 January) met with the minister of defence, Panos Kammenos, to look into ways his ministry could increase its assistance.

Among the possible scenarios is for the ministry to provide staff, operate cooking facilities, and help set up two relocation centres in mainland Greece (in Attica and Thessaloniki), each able to accommodate 4,000 people.

A Greek spokesperson told this website any involvement of the military would be limited to logistics and technical services.

Overall progress in EU 'poor'

The European Commission said it would also issue next week a progress report assessing whether the overall plans on migration were being implemented in EU states.

"We will be frank and objective about the poor progress we see on the ground today and about what needs to be done in the next days or weeks," said Avramopoulos.

Plans agreed by EU states last year to manage the crisis have failed to make any discernible impact. The scheme to relocate 160,000 people from Greece and Italy to other member states has ground to a halt, with some governments flat-out refusing to participate.

Other outstanding issues include the returning of people not entitled to international protection. Some countries, despite having readmission agreements in place, such as Pakistan, have refused their own nationals re-entry.

Liberal EP leader Guy Verhofstadt, for his part, proposed using article 78 of the EU treaty to take over the Greek borders and create a rapid response force.

"[It] is a decision that can be taken by a qualified majority in the council immediately," he said in Strasbourg.

Greece 'seriously neglected' border controls, says EU

The European Commission has accused Greece of "seriously neglecting its obligations" to manage its frontiers amid broader threats to extend border controls in the Schengen area to two years.

Asylum reforms derailed, as EU looks to north Africa

EU leaders at the summit in Brussels want partnerships with north African states that go beyond migration. But internal EU reforms on asylum, especially sharing of migrants and refugees between member states, remain stuck.

Austria EU presidency seeks 'mandatory solidarity' on Dublin

EU interior ministers are meeting in Luxembourg this Friday to discuss migration. The Austrian EU presidency is hoping to reach a consensus on Dublin reforms and a concept of 'mandatory solidarity' after briefing 27 EU states bilaterally over the summer.

Libyan militia cash in on EU's anti-smuggling strategy

More people in Libya are being inducted into slavery as people-traffickers try to monetise their investment by selling them. A senior UN refugee agency official described it as an unintended side effect of the reduction of migrant boat departures.

Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate

Issues of sovereignty remain entrenched following a proposal by the European Commission to expand the EU's border and coast guard, also known as Frontex, to 10,000. But EU leaders maintain a "basic consensus" of support had been reached.

News in Brief

  1. Rutte: summit was 'not the moment' for higher climate ambition
  2. Legal text for Brexit relocation EU agencies agreed
  3. Greek foreign minister resigns over Macedonia deal
  4. No Brexit backstop means no approval, says EU parliament
  5. Poland questions supremacy of EU court
  6. Medvedev to meet Juncker and Merkel in Brussels
  7. Italians and Czechs least favourable to remaining in EU
  8. Facebook hack set to be first major test of EU data rules

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Latest News

  1. Europe and Asia seek stable relations in troubled times
  2. Asylum reforms derailed, as EU looks to north Africa
  3. EU leaders worried about Italy's budget
  4. Russian activist warning on 'fake news' as EU backs action
  5. Kaczynski: No question of Polish EU exit
  6. EU summit to accept urgency of climate action – but no measures planned
  7. MEPs demand more from EU on human rights in Asia
  8. EU migration solutions are on the table - let's adopt them

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us