It has been the old European Union strategy since 2010: if something doesn’t work within the EU blame Greece! You can’t go wrong with this. Oh! And stress the “common European interests”. Tou can’t go wrong with this either. And so they did. The College of EU Commissioners discussed a draft “Schengen Evaluation Report on Greece” and “identified” that Schengen implementation by Greece had “serious deficiencies in external border control.“The pan-european problem of the Refugee Crisis suddenly becomes a home-made Greek problem that puts at risk the EU’s common interests. The outcast is here to stay. You can’t go wrong by hitting the Greek punching bag either.
In a long statement with lots of bureaucratic details issued on Wednesday afternoon the European Commission notes among others that:
“The draft report – which is not public – is based on unannounced site visits to the Greek-Turkish land border and to Chios and Samos conducted from 10 to 13 November 2015.
The report looks at the presence of police and coast guard personnel on the inspected sites, the efficiency of the identification and registration process, sea border surveillance and cooperation with neighbouring countries.
Whilst acknowledging that the Greek authorities are under pressure, the report notably finds that there is no effective identification and registration of irregular migrants and that fingerprints are not being systematically entered into the system and travel documents are not being systematically checked for the authenticity or against crucial security databases, such as SIS, Interpol and national databases.
On this basis, the draft report concludes that Greece is seriously neglecting its obligations and that there are serious deficiencies in the carrying out of external border controls that must be overcome and dealt with by the Greek authorities.” (layout modified, italic & underlined sentances by KTG)
But what are these “serious deficiencies” that have not been mentioned in the related EU Commission press release on the issue?
@EU_Commission Coordinating Spokesperson Natasha Bertaud could not reveal. “The report was not public,” she replied to a relevant question, but hinted to “deficiency related to lack of systematic registration/fingerprinting” of refugees and migrants arriving illegally in Greece from Turkey.
— Natasha Bertaud (@NatashaBertaud) January 27, 2016
Upon a further comment that “only some of the equipment for fingerprinting devices (eurodac) has reached Greece” from the side of Europe, the EU Commission spokeswoman answered with a very sound and long lasting …silence.
On the pure procedure issues, the EU Commission statement notes that:
“the report identifies the shortcomings and makes recommendations for remedial action, with a deadline for their implementation. The recommendations are submitted by the Commission to the Council for adoption. As a follow-up, the Member State in question is required to submit an action plan setting out how it intends to remedy the weaknesses identified.”
The Eighth bi-annual report on the functioning of the Schengen area of 15 December 2015 already announced that, depending on the results of the Schengen evaluations in Greece, specific measures as referred to in Article 19a and 26 of the Schengen Borders Code may be recommended.
The end of the statement marks the crucial point every journalist based in Brussels has been reporting in the last weeks: that Greece might be isolated from the Schengen area – to say it polite.
Procedures addressing exceptional circumstances
If a Schengen Evaluation Report concludes that the evaluated Member State is “seriously neglecting its obligations under the Schengen rules” and if there are “serious deficiencies in the carrying out of external border control”, the Commission can propose recommendations, to be adopted by the Council, for remedial action to address any deficiencies identified during the evaluation. In order to ensure compliance with these recommendations, the Commission may, under Article 19a of the Schengen Borders Code, recommend that the evaluated Member State take certain specific measures, which may include the deployment of European border guard teams or the submission of a strategic plan setting out how the Member State will deploy its own personnel and equipment to address the concerns.
The Commission’s proposals must be adopted by a Committee of the Member States, acting by qualified majority. The evaluated Member State then has three months to complete the remedial actions.
Where, after three months, serious deficiencies persist and the measures taken have not proved sufficient to ensure the adequate remedy of these deficiencies, the Commission may trigger the application of the procedure provided for in Article 26 of the Schengen Borders Code.
“Under Article 26 of the Schengen Borders Code, if the measures under Article 19a have not been effective, the Council may, based on a proposal from Commission, recommend that one or more Member States reintroduce border controls at all or at specific parts of their internal borders as a matter of last resort, to protect the common interest of the Schengen area.
Under Article 26, and in the exceptional circumstances described above, controls can be reintroduced for a period of up to six months. This measure can be prolonged for additional six month periods up to a maximum duration of two years., the EC statement concludes.
Same procedure as last year? Same procedure as every year since 2010: Blame Greece for every EU problem, be it the €uro, be it the Refugee Crisis, be it Whatever.
PS ops! I though I heard EU Commission sources claiming this morning/last night that there was no option to expel Greece form the Schengen area.