Friday

19th Oct 2018

Greece demands open border pledge at EU summit

Greece wants a UK deal to keep it within the Union linked to demands on maintaining open internal borders, according to a Greek government contact.

The move follows on-going talks at an EU summit in Brussels on Friday (19 February) where the 28 leaders are attempting to seal an agreement on keeping Britain within the bloc.

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

An EU source said the issue has not come up in any of the meetings between EU state heads and EU council chief Donald Tusk and EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

"That has not been a part of our talks," he said.

A second EU source said any threat by Greece to not agree on a final EU summit conclusion is a "rumour planted by Athens."

But a third EU source said "political work is ongoing to avoid non-coordinated closing of borders."

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday held discussions with the Germans and French on migration and its bailout programmes.

The Greek government source told EUobserver Tsipras wants guarantees that migrants and asylum seekers will be able transit to across member states within the final summit agreement.

"Guarantees are needed to keep borders open," noted the contact.

He said Germany agreed to not close its borders until the next EU summit with Turkey in early March.

He also said guarantees are needed to make sure the scheme to relocate some 160,000 people from Italy and Greece to other EU states continues. The scheme, agreed last September, has floundered with EU states only taking in some 500 of the total so far.

Border clamp downs are instead becoming more common with the EU threatening to extend controls within the passport-free Schengen zone to up to two years.

An asylum cap, imposed by Austria earlier this week, risk sparking knock-on effects on other EU states further south and along the Balkan route from Greece. Vienna will allow only 80 asylum applicants and some 3,200 to cross into its territory per day.

"I am very happy with our decision and we will stick to it," said Austria's interior minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner, reports Reuters.

Over one million people sought international protection in the EU last year. Many more are projected to arrive in 2016 as the war in Syria rages on and as refugees stuck in overcrowded camps in Jordan and Lebanon turn to smugglers.

The crisis in the region continues to largely play out on the shores of the Greek Aegean islands, with an average of two child drownings per day, according to the International Organization for Migration, the UN agency for refugees (UNHCR) and UNICEF.

The UNHCR said some 4,600 people arrived on the Greek Aegean islands on Thursday alone.

The Tsipras threat underlines broader tensions on migration that risked overshadowing a summit formally dedicated to sorting Britain's awkward relations with the rest of the EU.

Both issues are posing existential questions on the future of a European Union that is struggling with some of its largest challenges since the euro-crisis.

EU at breaking point over migration crisis

EU divisions over the migrant crisis reached a new low on Thursday, with Greece saying that it won’t become “Europe’s Lebanon” and accusing Austria of “19th century attitudes.”

Analysis

Greek migration crisis enters worst-case scenario

The EU warned Tuesday of a possible humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Balkans, with Greece a special concern, as a de facto exclusion from the Schengen area looms.

Greek PM threatens to block EU decisions

Alexis Tsipras threatens to block EU decisions if Greece is left to deal with the migration crisis alone, warning that he will not let Greece be turned into a "warehouse of souls".

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.

News in Brief

  1. Japan to focus on circular economy at G20
  2. Italian budget 'significant deviation' from rules, says EU
  3. Podemos initiates debate on legalising marijuana in Spain
  4. Merkel: Focus on banking union at December EU summit
  5. Scotland confirms mad cow disease case
  6. European 'Green surge' set for repeat in Hessen election
  7. Rutte: summit was 'not the moment' for higher climate ambition
  8. Legal text for Brexit relocation EU agencies agreed

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. Top EU banks guilty of multi-billion tax fraud
  2. Polish left a glimmer of hope in fight against illiberal democracy
  3. Europe and Asia seek stable relations in troubled times
  4. Asylum reforms derailed, as EU looks to north Africa
  5. EU leaders worried about Italy's budget
  6. Russian activist warning on 'fake news' as EU backs action
  7. Kaczynski: No question of Polish EU exit
  8. EU summit to accept urgency of climate action – but no measures planned

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us