Friday

13th Dec 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

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.

Migrants paying to get detained in Libyan centres

A trend has emerged over the past few months where desperate people are paying to get locked up in Libyan detention centres to escape the conflict and with the hope they stand a better chance of getting resettled to Europe.

News in Brief

  1. Slovenia, Croatia ex-leaders highlight jailed Catalans
  2. Italian court tells Facebook to reopen fascist party's account
  3. EU extends sanctions on Russia until mid-2020
  4. UK exit poll gives Johnson majority of 86
  5. Orban: 'financial guarantees' to reach climate neutrality
  6. Merkel hopes EU leaders agree 2050 climate-neutrality
  7. Czech PM: nuclear energy needed for climate neutrality
  8. Hungary: Climate target is burden, EU should help

Interview

EU Africa envoy: Europe needs to look beyond migration

Europe's obsession with migration from Africa means it risks losing out the continent's potential when it comes to trade, says the EU's ambassador to the African Union, Ranier Sabatucci. "Africa is a growing continent, it is the future," he says.

Feature

Malmo, a segregated city - separating fact from fiction

Despite the neighbourhood's beautiful name, the reputation of Rosengård (Rose Garden) does not so much evoke images of roses as headlines of crime and social challenges. This area of Malmö has been struggling with its notorious, mythical, image for years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. Huge win for Conservatives in UK election
  2. Behind bars: a visit to an imprisoned Catalan politician
  3. Leaders agree 2050 climate neutrality - without Poland
  4. EU leaders cagey on 'Future of Europe' conference
  5. Pressure mounts to grill Malta's Muscat at EU summit
  6. Revealed: little evidence to justify internal border checks
  7. Europe needs to make mind up on relations with Africa
  8. Leaders face crucial EU summit for climate action

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us