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MIGRATION – Schengen at risk amid refugee crisis

Many EU media continue to comment on the refugee crisis and its impact on the European Union and Schengen area. While Austrian media report that Commissioner Johannes Hahn is still convinced “that the EU will get the problem under control,” Jakub Dospiva writes in Trend that Brussels is starting to realise that the Schengen Area is slowly breaking down. In an interview with several European newspapers, European Council President Donald Tusk said that refugees arriving in Europe should be detained for up to 18 months in holding centres across the European Union while they are screened for security and terrorism risks. He said that public confidence in governments’ ability to tackle the immigration crisis would only be restored by a stringent new system of controls on the EU’s external borders.

Many media also report that the European Union, in the framework of the refugee crisis, urged Greece to strengthen its borders and threatened the country of possible Schengen expulsion. Corriere della Sera writes that following a mission to Lesbos, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis wrote to EC President Jean-Claude Juncker, describing the immigration emergency as a humanitarian catastrophe. The Daily Telegraph‘s Jeremy Warner draws parallels between Europe’s economic and migrant crises and argues that the EU is able to threaten Greece with expulsion from the Schengen zone because the country is reluctant to accept limited offers of help.

EC Vice-President Jyrki Katainen recently said the European Commission understood the difficult situation Greece was in and wanted to help the country protect its external borders, Ö1 reports. In an exclusive statement with Kathimerini, Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos clarified that the timetable for Greece is clear: by December 17th the situation must have been improved significantly both in the sea and the land borders of the country.

Media continue to report on the EU-Turkey agreement to address the refugee crisis. The EU will provide €3 billion and other inducements in return for Turkish help on migrants. Several media comment on this deal. Bloomberg View says that the agreement between the European Union and Turkey is too small to bring the flow of migrants under control. Visão refers to it as a “vague plan to contain refugees.” According to Magyar Idok, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said at a meeting of the Hungarian Diaspora Council on Wednesday that he expects a German-led secret backroom pact to be revealed soon to relocate a further 400,000 refugees from Turkey to the EU. “Beyond what we agreed with Turkey in Brussels there’s something that doesn’t figure in the agreement,” The Daily Telegraph quotes him as saying.

Mr Orbán notably claimed that there is an “absurd coalition” of human smugglers, human rights activists “paid by businessmen” and certain EU politicians that imports migrants to Europe. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans denied this secret EU-Turkey accord and called Mr Orbán’s assertion “nonsense” Corriere della Sera reports. The Wall Street Journal Europe reveals that thousands of migrants are making a last-ditch effort to reach Greek islands before Turkey and Europe put in place a new plan to tighten their borders. “People want to travel before the metaphoric door closes in Europe,” said Abby Dwommoh, spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration, as quoted by the American daily.

Meanwhile, Arte, Die Welt, Cyprus Mail as well as Croatian and Slovakian media report that Slovakia filed a lawsuit at the European Court of Justice against the EU’s decision to relocate 120,000 refugees among member states on Wednesday. Slovakia, which is due take in 2300 migrants under the scheme, argues it has no power to keep migrants in if they wish to move on to Germany and other richer EU member states, Arte reports. According to Slovak PM Robert Fico, the quota system already proved to be a fiasco, French and Croatian media report.

In an article in Die Welt, Andre Tauber criticises the fact that Europe is hitting “one low point after another” in the refugee crisis and quotes Jean-Claude Juncker’s criticism on the “lack of Europe and the lack of union.” He also concludes that Slovakia and Hungary’s resistance to take responsibility in this crisis shows how distant the European idea is from these states. Aktuality.sk quotes an EC spokesman as saying that according to the EU law, the legal action initiated by Slovakia does not include the duty to stop the decision on redistribution of immigrants by the time the Luxembourg court delivers the judgment.

 

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