Roadmap back to Schengen; Commission assesses Greek Action Plan

European Commission yesterday adopted its assessment of the Action Plan presented by the Greek authorities which details how Greece plans to address the deficiencies in its external border management. Greece’s Action Plan is its roadmap for implementing the recommendations made by the Council on how to address deficiencies identified in the management of Greece’s portion of the EU external border. The Commission’s assessment finds that significant progress has been made by Greece but that further improvements to the Action Plan and its implementation are needed in order to comprehensively address the deficiencies identified. Today’s assessment constitutes another stage in the process set out by the Commission on the Roadmap ‘Back to Schengen’ which seeks to end temporary internal border controls and re-establish the normal functioning of the Schengen area before the end of the year.

Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “The EU’s ability to maintain an area free of internal border controls depends on our ability to effectively manage our external borders. I welcome the continued efforts of the Greek Authorities to improve the situation, which we support. However, I also need to underline that all of the Council and Commission recommendations need to be met to face the unprecedented pressure at Europe’s external borders. The objective of the European Commission and of the Member States is to safeguard and strengthen Schengen. The Commission will continue to offer its support to Greece, and counts on the Member States to do the same.”

The Commission’s assessment finds that on many of the Council recommendations, significant progress has been made. The Action Plan presented by Greece details how Greece will provide reinforced staff for registration procedures, an expansion of reception facilities, an upgrading of the IT systems and the establishment of an effective coastal surveillance system. However, the Commission considers that for several actions more details and/or clarifications are needed, in order to properly assess and monitor the implementation of the actions proposed. Particular concerns relate to the lack of detailed timeframes given for the completion of actions, a lack of information about the authorities responsible for implementing the recommendations and a need to frontload and reprioritise Greece’s national programme to make proper use of the substantial financing received through the EU funding instruments, in particular the Internal Security Fund National Programme. The Commission requests that Greece provide the additional elements and clarifications by 26 April and offers its continuous support to Greece.

The Commission’s ‘Back to Schengen’ Roadmap of 4 March 2016, endorsed by EU Heads of State or Government on 7 March 2016, set out measures to address deficiencies in the management of the EU’s external borders. It is rectifying these deficiencies that will allow for controls exceptionally reintroduced at internal borders to be lifted. The Roadmap made clear that if the migratory pressures and the identified deficiencies in external border control were to persist beyond 12 May, the Commission would need to present a proposal under Article 26(2) of the Schengen Borders Code to the Council, to allow controls to be prolonged at certain specific borders for a limited period of time. The Commission remains prepared to pursue this course if necessary, as a means of safeguarding the functioning of the Schengen area as a whole.