Today, the European Commission 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.
Under the Schengen Evaluation Mechanism, established in October 2013, Schengen evaluations are carried out in Member States based on a multi-annual and an annual evaluation programme. Such visits can be announced or unannounced and are carried out by Commission-led teams with experts from Member States and Frontex.
Following each visit, a report is drawn up identifying any shortcomings and this is accompanied by recommendations for remedial action, with a deadline for their implementation. The Council, based on a proposal from the Commission, adopts the recommendations. As a follow-up, the Member State in question is required to submit an action plan setting out how it intends to remedy the weaknesses identified.
If serious deficiencies in the management of external borders are identified, the Commission may in addition recommend that the evaluated Member State take certain specific measures with a view to ensuring compliance with the Council Recommendation.
This process is now under way in the case of Greece, following an evaluation of the application of the Schengen rules in the field of external border management in November 2015. The Evaluation Report, based on on-site visits, and revealing serious deficiencies in the carrying out of external border control by Greece, was adopted by the Commission on 2 February 2016. Recommendations for remedial action were adopted by the Council on 12 February 2016. As the Evaluation Report found serious deficiencies, the Commission in addition adopted on 24 February 2016 an implementing decision setting out a Recommendation on specific measures to be taken by Greece. The recommendations seek to ensure that Greece applies all Schengen rules related to management of the external border correctly and effectively.
For More Information
Communication from the Commission: Assessment of Greece’s Action Plan to remedy the serious deficiencies identified in the 2015 evaluation on the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of management of the external border