Monday

27th May 2019

Greece gets two-week deadline for border plan

  • Idomeni camp saw violence erupt over the weekend (Photo: Fotomovimiento)

The European Commission on Tuesday (12 April) gave Greece a two-week deadline to come up with concrete plans on how to better protect the EU’s external border.

If not, the EU’s executive is set to extend existing border checks within the passport-free Schengen zone.

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

In early March the EU set out 50 recommendations for Greece to remedy deficiencies in the management of the external border of the Schengen area.

Tuesday's report is the first assessement of measures taken by Greece.

The commission says it is concerned with Greece's inability to run migrants' fingerprints through EU-wide data systems and urges Greece to start joint patrols with the EU’s border agency, Frontex, on the Macedonian border.

It highlights the lacks of an effective coastal surveillance system. It also points out at the lack of a timeline for measures to be implemented and of clarity over which authority is responsible.

“The commission requests that Greece provide the additional elements and clarifications by 26 April and offers its continuous support to Greece,” the EU executive’s statement said.

If, however, deficiencies persist, the commission will present a proposal to allow member states to extend border controls beyond an initial six-month period.

Under current rules, passport checks should cease first at Germany and Austria's borders on 12 May - six months after they were introduced.

“The commission remains prepared to pursue this course if necessary, as a means of safeguarding the functioning of the Schengen area as a whole,” the statement said.

Over the last months, several EU countries have pointed fingers at Athens for failing to defend the bloc’s external boundaries, and adequately process the tens of thousands flowing into the EU.

Since last September, eight Schengen countries, including Germany and Austria, favourite destinations for migrants making their way into the EU, have introduced border checks.

That induced fears about the survival of the Schengen area, one of the core achievements of the EU.

In February, Austria introduced a cap on how many asylum seekers it would allow in, prompting other countries along the so-called Western Balkan migration route from Greece, to close their borders to migrants.

It led to 53,000 people being stranded in Greece, over 11,000 of them at Idomeni, a village near a crossing point with Macedonia, according to the latest figures from the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR.

Violence has erupted several times at Idomeni, including last weekend.

Meanwhile, Austria said it would extend checks to its border with Italy, as authorities fear that the Balkan route of migrants to shift from Greece to Italy and then to Austria.

Austrian police said concrete was poured on Tuesday as building started for a control centre at the Brenner pass in the Alps, on one of the Europe's main North-South route.

The European Commission is “very concerned” about the plans, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

The pressure remains high on Greece even thogh since the borders are closed and an EU-Turkey deal came into force to return illegal migrants, the number of new arrivals have dropped.

According to figures from the UNHCR, last week fewer than 100 people arrived to the Greek shores on, marking the lowest recorded weekly arrival average rate to date.

EU sends back 200 migrants, despite legal concerns

Greece returned 202 migrants to Turkey on Monday. The EU has pledged that everyone's rights will be respected. But the UN says Monday's returns might have involved 13 violations.

Exclusive

EU development aid used to put European police in Senegal

An Austrian criminal intelligence service persuaded Italy's interior minister Matteo Salvini to set up a unit in Sicily against migrant smuggling, while in Senegal EU development money is financing an European-police led reform of Dakar's defence and interior ministries.

EU warns Hungary over Afghan refugees

Budapest tried and failed last week to deport three families to Afghanistan, and is accused of denying food to others stuck in its transit zone. The European Commission says it is taking the allegations "quite seriously."

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us