Sunday

23rd Jul 2017

EU wants internal border controls lifted by December

  • Avramopoulos: "What we try to do is make our system more realistic and more efficient." (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission wants to lift all internal border controls by the end of the year.

The plan is part of a broader effort to keep the passport-free Schengen zone from unraveling after eight EU states imposed checks amid a large inflow of migrants and asylum seekers.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"We cannot have free movement internally if we cannot manage external borders effectively," EU migration commissioner Avramopoulos told reporters on Friday (4 March).

The Brussels-executive released a so-called Schengen road map that sets out over a dozen deadlines. The paper comes ahead of an EU summit with Turkey next week.

It includes getting Greece to shore up its external borders to stem the on-going flows by 12 May and making a new European border and coast guard system operational by September at the latest.

Dublin transfers to Greece

Despite a 2010 European Court of Human Rights ban, Greece will also have to start accepting the transfer of asylum seekers from other EU states under the EU Dublin regulation.

Dublin says the country through which asylum seekers first entered the EU have to handle applications for asylum on behalf of all other member states.

Avramopoulos remained vague when asked how the EU Commission can initiate returns given the Court's decision.

"What we try to do is make our system more realistic and more efficient," he said.

But Thorbjorn Jagland, who presides over the Council of Europe, told reporters in February that the Strasbourg court's decision to prevent the transfer of migrants to Greece can only be overturned if another case determines that the country meets the minimum standards set by the Dublin regulation.

The Strasbourg court monitors the European Convention on Human Rights ratified by the 47 states at the Council of Europe.

More border checks, likely

Some 125,819 have reached the Greek islands this year alone.

Should Greece fail to improve how it manages its frontiers, then the EU Commission may decide to extend internal border checks to two years.

The timing coincides with Germany's border clamp downs, which must be lifted in May, unless the EU invokes an article in its Schengen rule book. The article can be triggered if an external border has "persistent serious deficiencies" that pose a "serious threat to public policy or internal security within the Schengen area".

But the December deadline comes with a lot of 'ifs'.

Around 876,000 people arrived in Greece from Turkey last year. More than 100,000 arrived in Lesbos island in October alone.

Greek authorities say its so-called hotspot in Lesbos, where arriving migrants are screened and registered, is able to accommodate a maximum of 1,500.

EU states don't see eye to eye

Cooperation by EU states, who are deeply divided on how to best manage the migration crisis, is also required.

Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel wants to maintain an open-door policy with a focus on Turkey. But central EU states and Austria want more border control checks along the Western Balkan routes.

The diverging plans and controls means around 10,000 are now stuck on the Greek side of the border with Macedonia.

Many also oppose an EU scheme to relocate 160,000 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy. As of Thursday, only 660 have been distributed.

Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, and Slovakia have so far refused to relocate any from both Italy and Greece since its launch last September.

The ill-fated scheme casts doubts on a separate plan to resettle refugees from Turkey in exchange for sending back non-Syrians entering Greece.

The commission, for its part, hopes EU states can set aside the differences.

"We cannot move ahead by adopting lonely politics, no country can really cope with the situation by acting and behaving alone," said Avramopoulos

The task will be difficult as the war in Syria rages, pushing more asylum seekers and refugees into Turkey and Greece. A wobbly cease-fire in Syria appears likely to unravel, with rebels fighting Assad saying the government has maintained attacks.

On Friday, the commission announced a €95 million project from a €3 billion November deal with Ankara would go to humanitarian assistance and education for the some 2.7 million Syrian refugees inside Turkey.

It also wants returns and readmissions with Turkey increased and has agreed to the possibility of lifting visas for visiting Turkish nationals by October in exchange.

Stakeholder

Impact of the refugee crisis on the EU transport sector

The ALDE Group recently hosted a hearing on the human and economic impact of the refugee crisis on the EU transport sector, which would be one of the hardest hit sectors if the Schengen system falls apart.

Italy's 'nuclear option' on migrants unravels

Media has reported that Italy may issue visas to migrants to allow them to travel further north. But the plan is unlikely to work due to EU rules underpinning such decisions.

Austria readies for migrant border surge

Foreign ministers in Brussels agreed to toughen up measures against Libyan migrant smugglers amid Austrian claims it is ready to "protect" its borders from any sudden mass migrant movements from Italy.

EU backs Italy on NGO rescues

The European Commission has said that the EU and Italy merely want to “better organise” migrant rescues in the Central Mediterranean.

EU to scale back Greek asylum aid

The Greek government is set to take over running services provided by EU-funded NGOs for stranded migrants and asylum seekers in August. The lack of clarity and state plans for the transition is raising alarm.

Austria readies for migrant border surge

Foreign ministers in Brussels agreed to toughen up measures against Libyan migrant smugglers amid Austrian claims it is ready to "protect" its borders from any sudden mass migrant movements from Italy.

EU backs Italy on NGO rescues

The European Commission has said that the EU and Italy merely want to “better organise” migrant rescues in the Central Mediterranean.

News in Brief

  1. Polish parliament adopts controversial justice reform
  2. GMO opt-out plan unlikely to go anywhere in 2017
  3. Slovak PM threatens to boycott inferior food
  4. France takes Google's 'right to be forgotten' to EU court
  5. Turkey accuses German companies of supporting terror
  6. Israel's Netanyahu caught calling EU 'crazy'
  7. UK does not collect enough data to expel EU nationals
  8. Polish president threatens to veto justice reform

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  2. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  3. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  4. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  5. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  6. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  9. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  10. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  12. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School

Latest News

  1. Dutch coalition talks lengthiest in 40 years
  2. Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU
  3. EU urges UK to clarify its Brexit positions
  4. Law expert: direct EU powers have become too complicated
  5. Winter is here for Spitzenkandidat, but he'll survive
  6. Mafia money pollutes the EU economy
  7. Central Europe should be wary of Brexit stopping
  8. Poland's 'July coup' and what it means for the judiciary