5 February 2016

On 2 February, the EU’s College of Commissioners adopted the Schengen Evaluation Report on Greece and a proposal for a Council Recommendation on ‘addressing the serious deficiencies identified in the evaluation report on the application of Schengen rules in the field of management of the external borders by Greece.’

The report finds that Athens has “seriously neglected” its obligation to control the frontier of the passport-free Schengen zone. As observed by EU missions in November, people arriving were not methodically registered, checked and finger-printed.

However, Greek authorities claim the visits were very brief and some improvements have already been made, instead blaming Turkey’s failure to honour the deal it struck with the EU in November

“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 last week.

The recommendations seek to ensure that Greece applies all Schengen rules related to management of external border correctly and effectively. Greece should ensure a sufficient number of staff and fingerprint scanners for registration and verification of migrants and their travel documents against SIS, Interpol and national databases. Necessary facilities for accommodation during the registration process should also be provided and border surveillance should be improved,

“Our ability to maintain an area free of internal border controls depends on our ability to effectively manage our external borders,” Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said. “The objective of the European Commission and of the Member States is to safeguard and strengthen Schengen. We will only save Schengen by applying Schengen.”

Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister heading the EU Presidency, recently warned that the EU has “six to eight weeks” to save the Schengen system of border-free travel.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 5 February 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.