Athens, December 15, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
The speculation on exit plans of Greece from the Schengen zone is at the heart of a publication in the Economist, which is entitled «The Economist explains: Why Greece was almost kicked out of Schengen».
As outlined, the Schengen zone (enabled passport-free travel in 26 countries) has been under great pressure since August, due to the unprecedented number of immigrants and refugees, which has caused many governments to push for the reintroduction of checks at the borders, trends that have returned strongly after terrorist attacks in Paris. Some countries have closed their borders (permitted by the Treaty for reasons of national security), while others ask for its long-term suspension. “But despite the uncertain future of the zone, last week the expulsion was used as a threat against a member state, Greece, which refused to cooperate in the collective effort to address the refugee crisis. Why;”.
The first sign of problems came on November 27 when the Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said that there were European leaders who were willing to expel Greece from the zone. “Dissatisfaction with the country… had increased following the refusal to accept help from the EU in the guarding of its external borders and limiting the flow of migrants. The Greeks reacted to the possibility of an exit from the Schengen zone in astonishment. The pressure increased due to unrest between refugees and migrants at the border between Greece and FYROM. On December 4 Greece had agreed”.
According to the Economist, an exit of Greece from the Schengen zone would not have brought many results in the reduction of migrant flows. Greece has no land borders with other countries in the area, so for refugees traveling by land it would not have been harder or easier. The only impact would be for the Greeks to lose the right to move freely within Schengen, and, most importantly, to force visitors to issue a visa – something that would be a major blow to tourism.
“It may seem strange that Greece would succumb to pressures of an exit from the Schengen zone at a period during which the future of the zone itself is doubtful. However controls at Europe’s borders, whatever their practical usefulness might be, are important symbols as to who belong to the “club” and who does not. The issue of Schengen and of the future of Greece will be reviewed once again in March 2016″, concludes the report.
Toscas Mouzalas’s letter to the Migration Policy Commissioner
Deputy Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Toskas and Migration Policy John Mouzala sent a letter to the European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos, which lists the positions of Greece on the refugee-immigrant issue, in view of the next Summit of December 17.
The competent ministers express deep concern about the intentions of the European partners after the threats to Greece’s exit from the Schengen zone in the event of the non-implementation by the Greek government of the necessary measures for managing migration-refugee flows.
In their special report on the issue of the tested modifications to the Schengen Treaty they stress:
“The free movement of persons within the Schengen zone is an essential element of European citizenship (Articles 20 and 21 of the Treaty of Lisbon). Therefore it is imperative that, when considering the proposed amendments to the Treaty, not to spare any efforts to ensure this fundamental principle which is part of our very identity as a Union. In this endeavor we must strike the right balance between security and freedom of movement”.
The ministers call for the earliest possible implementation of the agreed upon with regard to hotspots, relocation, resettlement and return of migrants and refugees, stressing that “all these issues are interlinked and a failure decisive to dealing with them directly affects the safety of our borders”.
Mouzalas and Toskas recognise that “the terrorist attacks in Paris place pressure for the effective management of our borders, however – they note – it is clear that they should not be confused with terrorism and immigration, and that European values and the acquis communautaire must be preserved”.
Regarding Frontex – the proposal for the replacement of which by a European Coast Guard and Border Guard will be formally presented on Tuesday to the European Commission – the two ministers point out that October’s decision to enhance its jurisdiction it “fully respects the sovereignty of states – members”. They also say that the Rules of Frontex «provides the initiative and consent of the Member State requesting its assistance in order to decide, design and implemented an operation”. “This principle – they add – is reflected in numerous articles and Rules and reflects the rationale behind the principle of solidarity (Article 222 of the Treaty of Lisbon). “It is therefore necessary – they conclude – to maintain the principles of initiative and consent, especially since the decisions within the Body are taken by majority vote”.
Finally, Mouzalas and Toskas ask for the Commissioner’s attention to the issue of the abolition of the emergency first host country rule or even its downgrading, with emphasis placed “to family reunifications and individual will of an asylum-seeker”, noting that the refugee crisis revealed the limitations and shortcomings of the Dublin Regulation as is.
Marias: The exit from the Schengen is in the interest of the Greek People.
“An exit from the Schengen zone is in the interest of the Greek people and the Greek economy, it would open the possibility of additional tourist flows, which until now needed a visa, such as Russian tourists”, says the independent MEP Notis Marias, commenting on the developments on the refugee crisis.
Marias stressed that “loan sharks lenders under the pretext of dealing with refugee flows and the guarding of the external borders of Schengen, deprive from our country the control of the greek borders. The guarding of the greek border cannot be assigned to foreign forces”, and concluded by saying that “Greece ought to close its borders, to exit the Schengen zone and not to accept any hot-spot in its territory. The hot-spots should be in Turkey”.