For one more time, our European partners and the European Commission are using Greece as pretext to extent internal Schengen border controls for another six months and for only 5 countries which are in fact the following two: Germany and Austria. Despite the presence of the NATO force, the enhancement of the Frontex and the dramatic decrease of refugee and migrants flow to Greece in recent weeks, the EU Commission states that “Greece has delivered huge efforts and there is real progress in stemming the refugees flow” BUT there are “still serious deficiencies.”
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “The Greek authorities have delivered huge efforts and there is real progress on the ground. Moreover, the EU-Turkey agreement has dramatically reduced the arrivals in Greece. However, there is still is considerable migratory pressure at our external border, and large numbers of migrants present in Greece. Therefore, as long as serious deficiencies in border management persist some internal border control measures should be maintained.“
In the known constructive-ambiguity style, the EC vaguely mentions in a press release, the border management deficiencies as “some persistent deficiencies” without specifically mentioning them and says that its findings are based on “a Schengen evaluation visit to Greece from 10 to 16 April”. The Schengen evaluation report has not been attached to the press release, though.
The EC justifies the internal Schengen controls with the aim to “address the threat to public policy and internal security resulting from the secondary movements of irregular migrants”, while EU Commissioner for Migration & Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos blames Greece for “still hosting a large number of asylum seekers and irregular migrants, who may present a risk of secondary movements.”
There is no mentioning whatsoever that “the large number of asylum seekers and irregular migrants” stuck in Greece is due to the Schengen internal controls and the borders closure along the Balkan Route initiated by Austria. There is also a total absence of self-criticism with regards to “EU member states refusing to accept refugees from Greece” as well as with regards to the unwillingness of the EU member states to supply Greece with essential equipment and personnel.
Excerpt from EC Press Release:
The overall functioning of the Schengen area is therefore still at risk and therefore, based on the information at its disposal, the Commission has proposed that the Council adopts a Recommendation to those Member States currently carrying out internal border controls, inviting them to continue carrying out targeted and measured controls at specific borders for a limited period of six months to address the serious threat identified. These Member States should during this period keep the controls under regular review, and adjust them to the level of threat identified.
Specifically, the Commission proposes that the Council recommends that 5 countries maintain the following internal border controls for a further period of six months:
- Austria at the Austrian-Hungarian land border and Austrian-Slovenian land border;
- Germany at the German-Austrian land border;
- Denmark in the Danish ports with ferry connections to Germany and at the Danish-German land border;
- Sweden in the Swedish harbours in the Police Region South and West and at the Öresund bridge;
- Norway in the Norwegian ports with ferry connections to Denmark, Germany and Sweden.
These measures, foreseen under the Schengen Borders Code, act as a safeguard for the overall functioning of the area without internal border controls. The Commission’s objective is to return to a normally functioning Schengen area and to lift all internal border controls by the end of 2016. (full Press Release here)
In the context of Transparency, I expect that the EC will publish the report of the “Schengen area visit in April.”