So, the European Union does not know how to deal with the refugees and threatens to suspend Greece from Schengen passport-free travel zone, if Athens does not accept to hand out its borders controls to EU and Turkey. It was November 27th, when the first official threat came out from the lips of Eurogroup head, Jeroen Dijsselbloem. He warned that countries which fail to adequately guard Europe’s borders could find themselves outside the Schengen borders. In order to make it look ‘smoother’ he put in the same top also these countries that “do not take in a fair share of refugees”.
Today the Financial Times makes a big story out of these threats, thus announcing that Greece could be suspended from Schengen as soon as of mid-December.
picture by @stratosathens
In short, the article puts all the blame on Greek government thus claiming that the EU is “frustrated” that Greece does not “accept EU help”, “joint patrols with Turkey”, “deployment of 400 Frontex staff to immediately reinforce its border with Macedonia,” [FT means the Former Republic of Macedonia] and “humanitarian aid.”
“Greece’s relatively weak administration has been overwhelmed by more than 700,000 migrants crossing its borders this year. Given the severity of the crisis, EU officials are vexed by Athens’s refusal to call in a special mission from Frontex, the EU border agency; its unwillingness to accept EU humanitarian aid; and its failure to revamp its system for registering refugees.”
Everything is nicely set and said in the FT article as it re-chews the EU blackmailing threats and does not addresses crucial issues like:
Which agreement dictates that Greece should accept joint patrols with a non-Schengen, non-EU member country like Turkey.
What is the specific mandate for the 400 Frontex staff and who will come up for its expenses. The Frontex mission is supposed to be a s0-called ‘RABIT’ mission (Rapid Border Intervention Teams) that was used in 2011 at the borders between Greece 7 Bulgaria.
“The Rapid Border Intervention Teams have the task of surveillance of external borders, short-term intervention mandate in times of “urgent and exceptional pressure, especially the arrival at point of the external borders of large numbers of third-country nationals trying to enter the territory of the member State illegally.”
And here we have the first paradox: The refugees at the border with FYROM try to leave Greece not the other way around. FYROM is not a Schengen member.
What are the EU’s conditions to provide humanitarian aid for the refugees in Greece and if Greece accepts the “EU’s civil protection mechanism” how many thousands of refugees will be bottled up in Greece and for how may years?
How exactly will the Frontex at Greece’ northern borders and the joint patrols with Turkey operate and under which legal framework and how exactly will they prohibit refugees from coming to Europe?
“If the EU follows through on its threat, it would mark the first time a country has been suspended since passport-free travel was established in the Schengen Agreement of 1985,” the FT cheerfully notes although everybody knows that the Schengen zone was established in 1995.
Furthermore, FT does not explain that while member states can temporarily suspend Schengen passport-free movement, there is no legal base for the Schengen “authorities” to suspend the provisions and ‘punish another member state. It’s typical EU legislation, just like in the case of the Eurozone: provisions stipulate how members can enter but not how they can exit…
Citing four senior diplomats, FT notes that “EU’s home affairs ministers will meet upcoming Friday and will make clear, that “more drastic measures will be considered if Greece fails to take action before a summit of EU leaders in mid-December,” and that “the suspension warning has been delivered repeatedly to Greece this week, including through a visit to Athens by Jean Asselborn, foreign minister of Luxembourg, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency.”
Of course, a Schengen suspension will not affect at all the refugees inflow, it will only impose passport controls for Greek citizens. So, what will be the gain for Europe and the Schengen member countries? Practically, minimum to zero. They will punish Greek passport holders. So what? The real gain will be political and thus for the conservatives on Europe.
Ask the Germans
The German conservatives are reportedly furious, as furious as Germans conservatives can be and move the strings into a new show “Blame Greeks for all evil of this world”.
“The Germans are furious and that’s why people are talking about pushing Greece out,” a EU diplomat was quoted as saying by the FT. He said “the red line for the Germans was not allowing Frontex to come in and help them.”
EU affairs news portal Euobserver, notes that
“The idea of suspending Greece from the Schengen area has been floated in the EPP, German chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right political family, since the height of the migration crisis late summer.”
Germany’s satellites, the eastern European countries joined the chorus line. Hungary’s PM Orban demanded already in September that EU should take control of Greece’s borders. Last week, Slovakia’s PM Fico called to expel Greece from the Schengen area, saying “We just cannot put up with a member country that has openly given up on safeguarding the Schengen area borders.”
It is worth-noting is that these countries refuse to take in refugees.
The new war
International and local press reproduces today the “furious” claims putting all the blame of Refugee Crisis on Greece. Main thing, they wash their hands of the crisis.
- “Greece has also refused to take on many of the 300 available eurodac machines for fingerprinting and registration of refugees in the single EU database, citing problems with Internet connections and staff training. Greek officials say they already use 45 eurodac machines and 15 are underway.”
- “EU diplomats complain that Greece has not fulfilled its promise to organize three flights to resettle refugees in other member states. Partly due to registration problems in Greece. Only 159 refugees from 160,000 have been resettled in Europe. (via Greek euro2day)
- “Earlier this year, Greece delayed the disbursement by the commission of a €30 million aid package to face the refugee crisis when it did not provide the necessary documents.”
- “The commission has also been waiting, since August, for Greece to request the activation of the EU civil protection mechanism that would trigger support from other member states.” (euobserver)
- “Greece is breaking Schengen rules” (a UK journalist on my Twitter TL)
Things are not as simple as they seem to be and claimed by the EU diplomats, the furious Germans and the press. Things are complicated 1. due to issues of Greece’s Foreign Policy (Turkey, FYROM) and 2. because it is understandable that Greece does not want to keep thousands of refugees on its territory.
Why should it?
The suspicious ambitions of the Frontex
In a recent interview with China’s news agency Xinhua, the head of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri said that
“Under current rules Frontex has no access to security and criminal databases in order to run systematic security controls to ensure that documents used by immigrants arriving at the European Union’s external borders are fully checked.”
Therefore Leggeri pledges for an expansion of the Frontex mandate and will call on EU member states that Frontex “should be granted more autonomy and more room for manoeuvres”. Otherwise the checks conducted by Frontex are very basics.
The Frontex allegedly plans to move its regional office from Piraeus, Greece since 2010 to Italy.
Furious? Who is Furious here?
I don’t know who is more furious here: Merkel’s arch-conservative party friends who want to exploit Greece for one more time and the Refugee Crisis for political gains? The Frontex that demands expansion of its mandate” Or we, Greeks, who watch for one more time the same anti-Greek circus set in motion.
It is interesting that small and broke Greece is perceived as the source of all European problems, be it the Eurozone- or the Refugee-crisis.
Just wondering, what will come up next…
PS A great Thanks to @calliope for her valuable assistance