Kick Greece out of the Schengen zone?

Athens is finding itself increasingly isolated in the refugee crisis: thousands of asylum seekers are stranded in Greece after Macedonia closed its border to Afghan refugees on Sunday. And not a single Greek representative was invited to the Balkan refugee conference taking place in Vienna. Will Athens be driven out of the Schengen Area?

Open/close all quotes
Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

EU planning geopolitical suicide

Athens is right to be incensed that not a single Greek representative was invited to the Balkan refugee conference, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore comments:

“For Vienna, which is also ready to deploy another 100 customs officials to seal the Brenner Pass again - like in the times before 1995 when Schengen came into force - Athens is clearly not part of the solution but only part of the problem. Meanwhile the UN Refugee Agency has criticised Austria and the Balkan states' new border policy, saying that it will put all the burden on Greece. … Instead of finding joint solutions Europe is once again trying to get by with stopgap measures. It seems to be toying with the idea of a Grexit once more - this time with Greece's expulsion from Schengen. But ultimately that would be tantamount to Brussels committing geopolitical suicide.”

To Vima (GR) /

Athens sinking into chaos

The situation will deteriorate very quickly because refugees will keep arriving in Greece but won't be able to move on to other countries, the liberal online paper To Vima fears:

“It's obvious that the entire country will turn into one big hotspot. … The situation seems simply chaotic and many fear that rioting will break out and events will get out of control. The local politicians are describing themselves as 'chaos managers' because they aren't getting any help. Greece could indeed become a huge camp, a dangerous zone for refugees and inhabitants alike. The Greek state no longer works, as the Bulgarian prime minister recently commented disparagingly. Greece has no allies on this issue and will soon very likely be confronting a national crisis.”

Kathimerini (GR) /

Greeks could turn into Europe-haters

The conservative daily Kathimerini warns in its English version that anti-European sentiment could surge in Greece in view of the growing pressure the EU is exerting on the country:

“The danger of public opinion turning against Europe and the euro is clearly visible. If any of the scenarios regarding a new European Union border at the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are activated, this will further add to the sense of being cut off from the rest of the bloc. We are lacking the kind of robust leadership needed at this point, and, if anti-European sentiment flares up again - this time coupled with a sense of despair - it’s easy to envision a large portion of the population coming under the spell of a new chimera, similar to those that led the country to disaster in the past. Mistakes are easy when an entire country is so tired and so disappointed.”

Kathimerini (GR) /

Other EU states are no better

The Europeans should beware of pointing a finger at Greece in the refugee crisis, writes columnist Pantelis Boukalas in the English version of the conservative daily Kathimerini:

“European states and regions are caught up in competing over who will further reduce the amount of money refugees are allowed to keep on them. Denmark here extends to various parts of Europe: to Denmark proper, where the maximum 'fortune' a refugee is allowed has been set at 1,340 euros, to Switzerland, where it’s 915 euros, Bavaria, 750 euros, and Baden-Wurttemberg, where it’s just 350 euros. Many already regard this as too much. ... Even if Greece has delayed in setting up 'hot spots,' who gave the tough guys of Europe the moral authority to threaten it with drowning?”

Avgi (GR) /

Athens should have raised the stakes earlier on

Managing the refugee crisis could have been a major trump card for Athens vis-à-vis its creditors and EU partners in the debt dispute and other issues, but the government missed this opportunity, columnist Giannis Kibouropoulos laments in the left-wing daily Avgi:

“[Already back in June] the data pointed to a huge rise in refugee numbers. It is a paradoxical failure of the government that it turned a genuine advantage - moral, political, communicative and economic - into a fatal disadvantage. Let's assume that the European elite had nothing to fear in the event of a Grexit back in June, but will it survive the collapse of the Schengen Area? We Greeks can renew our passports. But will the European elite be able to shoulder the enormous increase in transport costs?”

Die Welt (DE) /

Greeks lack all incentive to cooperate

Following in the footsteps of several EU interior ministers, the EU Commission has now also accused Athens of having failed in its duty to control the EU's border and register refugees. It is a fatal mistake to expect Greece of all countries to protect the EU's most important external border, the conservative daily Die Welt complains:

“The country's crisis-ridden society in which almost half of the working population is without a job offers no prospects for migrants. ... But as the weakest and at the same time the most refractory EU member, Greece is an ideal country of arrival for refugees. Because it doesn't turn anyone away, making it possible for everyone to join the club of rich Europeans. But since other countries, above all Germany, must bear the costs of this generosity, the Greeks have no incentive to look for a solution.”

Trud (BG) /

Pressure on Greece ups pressure on Bulgaria

If Greece is kicked out of the Schengen Area the number of refugees heading for Bulgaria will increase rapidly, the daily paper Trud warns:

“So far Bulgaria has concentrated almost exclusively on securing the EU outer border with Turkey. If Greece is excluded from the Schengen zone and Macedonia is forced to seal its borders to control the flood of refugees, Bulgaria will come under major pressure along its southern and south-eastern border. … The same thing could happen if northern Greece and Macedonia are declared buffer zones for the reception of refugees, as the EU interior ministers have already proposed. Since the start of the year more than 50,000 people have already crossed the Turkish-Greek sea border and half of them are already on their way to Western and Northern Europe.”

Ethnos (GR) /

THe EU can't just duck out now

The EU partners should take themselves to task when it comes to the failed refugee policy, writes the liberal daily Ethnos:

“In particular those EU partners who claim that this problem only concerns us, and that we have failed to deal with it. The problem concerns everyone in the EU, and only concerted action and cooperation can lead to a solution. Certainly we must be more consistent in performing a number of our duties. But the EU too must become more effective as regards planning and implementation. … If these conditions had been ensured in time, many problems could have been avoided. Since the EU has failed to get Turkey to fulfil its obligations we must now start looking for the culprits in Brussels. Or in Berlin.”

Denník N (SK) /

Ankara and not Athens holds key to solving refugee crisis

The four Visegrád states the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia have criticised Greece's alleged incompetence as regards sending back refugees. The liberal daily Dennik N defends Athens and argues that Turkey should play the key role instead:

“Greece can't stop the refugees, however that's not the result of incompetence but because its border is a sea border. Athens could simply sink the refugee boats and gather the dead bodies from the beach. No matter how strong the Greek navy is its main task can only be to save refugees. But without Turkey's approval it can't even deliver them back to the Asian coast. Turkey, for its part, has no interest in cooperating. It too simply wants to get rid of the refugees.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

EU core states pressuring peripheral members again

The pressure countries like France, Germany and Belgium are putting on Greece regarding border controls is typical of the attitude taken by the EU core countries, and the British should take careful note of it, the conservative paper Daily Telegraph comments:

“This is not the first time in recent years that the imperial nature of the EU has been revealed. During the financial crisis, weaker peripheral members such as Greece and Portugal were punished for breaking rules ... which nations such as France and Germany flouted with impunity. … The domineering tendency of the EU’s core leadership is troubling enough to anyone who values democracy. Yet it is being demonstrated just as Britain considers its future relationship with the EU. For that relationship to be sustainable and acceptable to the British people, British sovereignty must be preserved and respected. The EU response to its migrant crisis does not bode well for that condition being met in future.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Greece can't do the job all on its own

Simply upping the pressure on Greece won't be enough to stem the influx of refugees, the public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk argues :

“Greece is now receiving help, but it must also do more to get its homework done on its own. At the moment Athens has no great interest in stopping asylum seekers on their uncontrolled, unregistered way north. The increasingly unsubtle hints from a number of EU countries that if Greece acts too slowly or not at all it could find itself outside the Schengen Area increase the pressure on the country. .. But even a perfectly functioning Greek external border can only fulfill its purpose if two conditions are met: Turkey must not just let anyone who feels like it travel to Europe and must take back those ineligible for asylum. And those with a right to asylum must be fairly distributed throughout Europe.”

Delo (SI) /

Athens gets all the blame

The EU is blaming its own failures on defenceless Greece, comments the centre-left daily Delo angrily:

“It looks as if Greece has become the scapegoat for the entire EU's incompetence in the refugee crisis that is determining so many people's fates. Schengen is about to collapse because relatively small Greece can't manage to stop the historical flood of refugees. The fact that Europe is facing the loss of one of its greatest achievements of the post-war era is down to the EU, which is not prepared to implement a comprehensive solution that includes action in the countries of origin. A solution that provides help for the refugees in the Middle East and foresees a distribution of the burden among the EU countries.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

How to stop boats full of refugees?

Demands for the sea borders to be closed off are not just inhumane but also absurd, the liberal conservative daily Corriere della Sera argues:

“The memory of the lifeless body of little Alan Kurdi which was found on the Bodrum beach in September has faded. The wave of sympathy has subsided, and with it the willingness to generously take in an unlimited number of Syrian refugees, as announced by Angela Merkel. The chancellor has had to bow to the pressure even though dozens of migrant children are dying in the Aegean Sea today. However, the chosen path is not just a fatal blow for Schengen but also seems unfair to Italy and Greece. Germany and Austria can police the land routes with border controls if they want to. But what are Italy and Greece supposed to do when faced with a boatful of refugees that threatens to sink in the attempt to reach their coast? Shout 'stop!' because Schengen has been suspended elsewhere, and let everyone on board drown?”

Naftemporiki (GR) /

EU's patience is at an end

The interior ministers of Germany and Austria are threatening to expel Greece from the Schengen Area if it doesn't stop refugees from entering the EU. The conservative daily Naftemporiki complains that Athens has already tested the other member states' patience too often:

“In any case such a move would be a harsh punishment indeed, and would officially make us a 'second class' member. That would be very unpleasant for the Greek citizens and dangerous for the entire Union, because it would represent a further step toward abolishing the principle of the free movement of people and goods on which the community is based. And we would be the ones who bore the responsibility for such a development. Not because we haven't controlled our borders, but because we've done so much to alienate our allies in the EU. ... Only the government can't see that.”

More opinions

Kurier (AT) / 27 January 2016
  Greece the failing EU's bogeyman (in German)