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Schengen: Greece responds firmly to EU criticism

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Schengen: Greece responds firmly to EU criticism

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  • Draft EU evaluation slams Greece
  • Athens “seriously neglected” its obligations
  • Will Greece be suspended from Schengen?

The news

Greece has responded firmly to a draft report from the European Commission that has severely criticised its role in the migrant crisis.

“We have made some commitments. We have made progress on these commitments. We will be completely ready with regard to these commitments in a month. What remains to be seen is whether Europe will meet its commitments toward Greece and toward an international problem. The refugee crisis isn’t a Greek crisis. It’s a European crisis and we must find European solutions for European problems,” Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told reporters.

The draft report finds that Athens has “seriously neglected” its obligation to control the frontier of the passport-free Schengen zone.

Migrants were not methodically registered, checked and finger-printed in November, according to the dossier.

Athens is likely to be given three months to improve, after which neighbouring Schengen states could be advised to reintroduce temporary border controls.

EU Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis quotes the report as saying Greece “seriously neglected its obligations under the Schengen agreement.”

He added there were “serious deficiencies in the carrying out of external border controls that must be overcome and dealt with by the Greek authorities.”

“This report notably finds that there is no effective identification and registration of illegal or irregular migrants.”

“Fingerprints are not being entered into the sytem and travel documents are not being systematically checked for identity purposes or against crucial security databases like the Schengen Information System, Interpol and national databases.”

The Commission is determined to preserve its key Schengen agreement.

Officials acknowledge that Greece has improved its system of border controls since November.

However, further improvements are needed and Athens must tighten its procedures.

Schengen under threat

Cracks have appeared in the borderless, passport-free Schengen zone as member states try to deal with the EU’s unprecedented migrant crisis.

Free movement of people is one of the EU’s core values.

However, countries like Austria and Hungary have already reintroduced temporary checks at frontiers as they try to control the migrant flow.

More than a million migrants and refugees arrived in the EU last year, 850,000 of them via Greece from where many travelled north to Germany.

Initial figures for 2016 show an increase in arrivals on the same period last year.

Greek ministers have reacted angrily to previous suggestions the country could be isolated from the EU’s free movement principle.

What happens now?

  • Greece has no land borders with the rest of the Schengen zone. In theory, installing new frontier checks will only affect air and sea ports.
  • “Serious deficiencies” – a key phrase allowing other member states to impose longer-term measures on people arriving from Greece.
  • These measures come under the never-before used Article 26 of the Schengen code.
  • They can be brought in for up to six months and renewed up to three times.
  • It is not clear what might happen after that.

What they are saying

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