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The Schengen area called into question – EU media comments

European countries are sharpening measures to stop the flow of refugees and migrants after last month’s Paris attacks. The debate has exposed deep divisions in Europe, and frictions have increased after it emerged that two of the attackers arrived via the migrant trail. “There are a certain number of improvements that need to be made,” European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said, ahead of meetings focused on European border security, reports the Washington Post Sunday.

The same day, European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos said that there must be a pan-European policy on migration and asylum, or the European Union could fall apart, criticising most European countries for failing to do enough to help refugees fleeing war, poverty and persecution, British media report. The refugee crisis is a challenge, but Europe is stronger, First Vice-President Timmermans claimed in an interview with Ö1.

Some EU media and all Greek media comment on the fact that Greece could end up expelled from the Schengen area should it fail to implement the necessary measures to address the migrant crisis. Ethnos Tou Savvatou writes that following the threats regarding Greece’s exclusion from the Schengen area, Athens’s direct response to the European Commission’s recommendations defused the climate at the Council of the EU Home Affairs Ministers on Friday.

Helena Smith writes in The Guardian that Greece finally enacted emergency legislation to facilitate the registration of refugees pouring into the country and unveiled its plans to establish five hotspots on Aegean islands. Ethnos Tou Savvatou reports that Greece also submitted a request for the activation of the EU Civil Protection mechanism – which will allow it to receive material aid – agreed an operational plan with Frontex at the Greek borders with FYROM and submitted a formal request for the deployment of a Rapid Border Intervention Team (RABIT) operation to provide immediate border guard support at its external border in the Aegean islands.

EC chief spokesperson, Margaritis Schinas, expressed his hope that there would be tangible progress before the European Council meeting in December, Ethnos Tou Savvatou writes. Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos congratulated Greece for the big progress it made on Thursday, adding however that more things need to be done, Kathimerini writes. According to Kathimerini, Luxembourg Foreign Affairs Minister Jean Asselborn praised Greece’s efforts in recent days. In an interview with Star TV, Head of the EC Representation in Greece Panos Carvounis clarified that there is no chance for the expulsion of any country from the Schengen agreement.

While in his interview with Mega TV, Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos underlines that the Schengen agreement is one of Europe’s main achievements, and that, as a matter of fact, no country is at risk of being expelled from it, Kathimerini reports that the Council of the EU Home Affairs Ministers decided to postpone until March the discussion of the issue concerning the complete isolation of a member-state from the agreement. Several op-eds notably comment on this issue.

Respekt weekly reads that without the Schengen Area, Europeans would lose the right to free movement and the euro would lose its meaning. In his column in Právo Daily, sociologist and MEP Jan Keller comments that dividing the Schengen area would lead to the EU’s disintegration. On the contrary, The INYT’s Neil Unmack argues that it might be in Europe’s best interests to dismantle the Schengen area as it would dampen growing populism which threatens Europe’s economic integration.

Meanwhile, all German media and some EU media report that Germany and France have called on the EU’s executive body to strengthen European border protection agency Frontex. According to Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière and French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve urged the Commission in a letter on Thursday to extend the Schengen Borders Code so that Frontex could itself decide to help control an external border and take the initiative of deploying emergency border protection teams “in exceptional circumstances.”

Rolf Kleine comments in Bild Zeitung that it is “high time” for this important step, nevertheless adding that this measure can only work if EU member states agree to the fair distribution of refugees. Nevertheless, De Volkskrant comments that this measure will undoubtedly generate even more resistance, as it further infringes the sovereignty of the EU countries. The EC will present its proposal on 15 December.



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