Monday

26th Jul 2021

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

'We are not slaves': Brussels' migrant hunger-strike

Almost 500 undocumented migrants in Brussels have been demanding a legal pathway for residency in Belgium. Most have been on hunger strike since 23 May, with some now refusing water. MEPs are demanding the Belgian government offer them a solution.

Frontex chief accused of possible rights 'cover up'

A group of MEPs delivered their final report into the EU's border agency Frontex. After a four-month probe, they found it had failed to take its responsibility to protect fundamental rights at Europe's external borders.

News in Brief

  1. Funeral held for Roma man killed in Czech police custody
  2. UN: Afghan civilian casualties at record high
  3. Tunisia's prime minister sacked, parliament suspended
  4. Gaza hit by Israeli airstrikes
  5. Greece annuls humanitarian sea rescue award
  6. Thousands attend Budapest Pride
  7. Macron changes phone after Pegasus spyware revelations
  8. Italy to impose 'vaccinated-only' entry on indoor entertainment

Feature

The exploited Sikh labourers babysitting Italy's buffalos

The migrant workers are exploited (by landlords and dairy-businessmen) like slaves. They work up to 14-hours per day, every single day non-stop without any leave, for barely €400 per month. If they get injured, their bosses hide these incidents.

On board with SOS Méditerranée

Libyan police lieutenant: 'Coast guard are smugglers'

The Libyan coast guard actively works with smugglers and are run by a militia, an ex-Libyan lieutenant police officer. The EU is buying the guard three new P150 high speed patrol boats.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Germany mulls restrictions for unvaccinated as cases soar
  2. 'Prison island' birthplace of EU reborn as think-tank venue
  3. Will Erna Solberg be the Nordic Merkel – winning a third term?
  4. Hungary: why we can't support a global minimum tax
  5. Far left and right MEPs less critical of China and Russia
  6. Why is offshore wind the 'Cinderella' of EU climate policy?
  7. Open letter from 30 embassies ahead of Budapest Pride
  8. Orbán counters EU by calling referendum on anti-LGBTI law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us