Yesterday, Greece Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis directly threatened Greece with expulsion from the Schengen area following a meeting of the College of Commissioners to examine the Schengen evaluation report for that country. According to an article in Le Figaro, the Commission has warned Greece that it is seriously neglecting its obligations regarding the management of its borders and that it must take active steps within the next three months. President Juncker has reportedly a confidential report to the European capitals.
The Schengen countries are now required to approve the report and the outcome of this may be the closure of borders around Greece from next May.
In view of this:
1. Has the College of Commissioners in fact considered the assessment report and what is the substance thereof?
2. Given the entirely unforeseeable nature of the refugee problem, in conjunction with the crisis in Greece, has provision been made for additional emergency economic and technical assistance?
3. Given that the possible closure of the borders around Greece for six months under Article 26 of the Schengen Agreement coincides with the tourist season, which could provide the Greek economy with a breathing space, what view does the College of Commissioners take of this situation?
Answer given by Mr Avramopoulos on behalf of the Commission
The report of the evaluation of Greece's external borders in November 2015, adopted on 2 February 2016, concluded that there are serious deficiencies in the carrying out of external border control by Greece. Accompanying recommendations for remedial action were adopted by the Council on 12 February 2016 and a Commission recommendation on specific measures to be taken by Greece was adopted on 24 February 2016.
The Commission has been working in close cooperation with the Greek authorities on implementation of the hotspot approach at Greece's external border. Frontex' Rapid Border Intervention Teams have been activated to provide immediate support on the Aegean islands and at sea.
Greece received EUR 70 million from its 2014-20 allocation under the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the Internal Security Fund (ISF) plus additional support under the emergency assistance of these funds with a pre-financing of EUR 112 million paid out.
On 15 March 2016 a Council regulation was adopted(1) allowing the Commission to provide emergency support through its humanitarian partners on the ground to help Member States, whose administrations are financially and operationally overwhelmed, manage the influx of refugees. Subsequently, the Commission signed contracts for an initial EUR 83 million with partner humanitarian organisations to provide a targeted response to the refugee crisis in Greece.
Despite significant progress made by Greece, not all of the serious deficiencies could have been adequately addressed within the 3 months limit. The Commission has therefore proposed the Council to recommend one or more Member States to reintroduce control at their internal borders in line with the Schengen Borders Code. This recommendation was adopted by the Council on 12 May 2016.
(1) COM(2016)0115 final.