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Europe sets an ultimatum to Greece for Schengen

02 December 2015 / 12:12:49  GRReporter
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The European Union member states have addressed a stern warning to Greece that its place in the Schengen zone is at risk if until the next summit it does not take the already agreed measures to handle the refugee problem. The other member states expressed their angry reaction last Friday, during a meeting of their permanent representatives in Brussels, writes the newspaper Kathimerini. Diplomatic sources told its correspondent that especially the representative of Luxembourg was particularly scathing, pointing out that Greece had not complied with the October agreement reached with the other Western Balkan countries.

According to a diplomatic source of the newspaper, Greece has not complied with most of the commitments. In his words, one of the problems is that the reception and registration centre (hotspot) in Lesbos is not functioning. The second is that Athens has not agreed for 400 employees of the European border protection agency Frontex to be sent to its border with Macedonia, arguing in a letter to the European Commission that the mandate of the agency staff was too broad and extended far beyond the registration of refugees and migrants. The third problem is Greece’s reluctance to accept Frontex rapid border intervention teams (Rabid) and the fourth that Athens does not seem determined to use 300 electronic devices, which would help registering in a Europe-wide database the fingerprints of arrivals and which could be useful to them as well. Greece’s excuses were problems in the Internet connection and staff training. The fifth problem relates to complaints by European diplomats that Greece has not complied with its pledge to implement flights to transport refugees to other European countries.

In statements to the newspaper, the diplomatic source says that Greece has several days to start acting and satisfy the other EU member states to a certain extent. The deadline is until the summit that will take place on 17-18 December, at which the participants will present a progress report on the actions of the refugee flood management. "The moment of truth will come then," the European official told Kathimerini.
According to the publication, the European Commission is totally against the forced exit from the Schengen area. But if Greece did not take decisive actions in the coming days, the threat of imposing the specific measure would remain the only way for its partners to put pressure on it. Indicative of the atmosphere is the statement of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico that the solution to master migratory flows is to expel Greece from Schengen, which provoked a reaction from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Athens.

At the same time, Kathimerini diplomatic sources indicate that the arguments of Skopje to erect a fence along the border with Greece are "totally understandable." For its part, Greek Minister for Migration Yiannis Mouzalas said that Athens does not believe that the border will be opened. "We have already launched an operation to withdraw to Athens those refugees who are in the region of Idomeni. Obviously, it is not possible for the railway connection to be interrupted for nine days," he told the Greek Alpha TV.

"There are premises where we can accommodate them. I hope that the solution we can provide will be decent," said Mouzalas and added that the situation on the Greek-Macedonian border is in violation of international law. "Categorizing a refugee based on nationality is illegal. In fact, we are witnessing the first recognition that it is impossible for migrants and refugees to cross the border to other European countries. This confirms the concerns over a real danger of thousands of people being blocked on Greek territory," said the Greek Minister for Migration.

Tags: PoliticsEuropean UnionSchengen zoneUltimatum to GreeceRefugee flood
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