Tuesday

25th Apr 2017

EU imposes border demands on Greece

  • Macedonia crossing: Athens denies its has neglected border duties (Photo: Martin Leveneur)

EU states have piled the pressure on Greece to sort out its frontiers or risk extending internal controls throughout the passport-free Schengen zone for up to two years.

Ministers on Friday (12 February) issued Athens some 50 demands following EU Commission criticism that Greece had "seriously neglected its obligations" on border management when it came to migrant inflows.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The ministerial demands are part of the larger so-called Schengen Evaluation Report that now will be sent to the European Parliament.

Greece will have three months to sort out the issues.

The timing coincides with the expiration of German border checks in May that, should Greece fail to implement the recommendations, could allow Berlin to then extend its temporary controls beyond current maximum limits set under EU law.

Extending the checks for two years would require the European Commission to trigger the procedure in Article 26 of the Schengen borders code.

The article allows states to reintroduce controls at all or specific parts of their borders.

It means passport-free travel in the Schengen border zone would be more severely restricted, possibly jeopardising the EU's cherished right to freedom of movement.

Around half a dozen states have imposed border checks in an effort to stem and better manage large migratory flows.

Germany first imposed a ten-day control at its Austrian border at the start of September after having announced an open door policy for Syrian nationals.

Germany's interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, then appeared to pre-empt the Schengen report when he announced indefinite border checks on German radio MDR Info last month.

Three day probe

The Schengen report is based entirely on an unannounced three-day on-site visit in early November to the Chios and Samos islands as well as to several land border crossings with Turkey.

Greece, in a statement, said the November visits had failed to prove anything and that the agents sent by the EU border agency Frontex had shown "no evidence" that it had neglected its duties.

Some 880,000 people landed in Greece from Turkey last year. Despite the winter weather, Greece is averaging 2,000 daily landings.

The International Organization for Migration said on Friday around 77,303 people had crossed from Turkey to Greece since the start of the year.

Ministers wants Greece to prioritise registration gaps, sea border surveillance, risk analysis, and international cooperation.

Among the more specific demands, it wants Greece to improve security features on 'temporary stay' documents, reinforce the Hellenic police force, carry out systematic checks of irregular migrants' travel documents, and improve registration and fingerprinting of arrivals.

They also demand that Greece set up a coastal surveillance system that covers "the whole sea border between Greece and Turkey".

This includes offshore patrol boats, vessels, helicopters, planes "and other means".

Greece voted against the Schengen report in an economic and financial affairs council. Both Bulgaria and Cyprus abstained. Everyone else backed the report.

This article was updated on Monday (15 February) at 13.22. It incorrectly stated that the recommendations in the Schengen Evaluation Report would be submitted to the European Parliament for adoption. In fact, the recommendations will only be forwarded to the parliament.

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.

Greece struggles to hit EU migrant hotspot deadline

Greece has until 15 February to complete five screening centres for migrants - known as hotspots - as Macedonia erects a new border fence to stem the migrant flow through the Balkans.

EU commission defends ailing migration policies

The European Commission continues to defend EU agreements, broadly ignored by member states, to better manage migrant inflows, and gives Greece one month to improve asylum reception conditions.

MEPs question EU border guard proposal

Leftist and Green MEPs criticise proposals that would allow EU border guards greater powers to intervene in member states, questioning legal responsibility for rights violations.

EU stands aside as Hungary detains migrants

Commission is withholding action on Hungary's detention of asylum seekers, even as the Hungarian government tries to "stop Brussels" on immigration policy.

Austria wants out of EU migrant relocations

Austria is required to start relocating asylum seekers from Italy and Greece after an exemption to the scheme ended on 11 March. But Austria's chancellor has other ideas and wants the exemption prolonged.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary's Orban will participate in EU parliament debate
  2. Malta floats cash-for-refugees plan
  3. Ivanka Trump to meet Merkel at Berlin women's conference
  4. Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in 20 years
  5. Nord Stream 2 to get €4.8bn from European energy firms
  6. Defeated Fillon retires from French politics
  7. Hollande: Vote Macron to avoid 'risk' for France
  8. Italy misses deadline on air quality warning

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  3. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  4. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  5. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  6. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  7. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  8. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  10. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  11. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  12. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children