Deadline for Greece may impact Schengen region

16 Feb 16

EUROPEAN UNION, GREECE

IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? The European Commission has given Greece three months to implement dozens of improvements on managing its borders, building infrastructure to receive and house refugees, training staff, registering and screening incoming migrants and deporting irregular migrants.

What does the change mean? If Greece is unable to implement the myriad measures by the May deadline, the commission is likely to invoke Article 26 of the Schengen Borders Code, which would allow member countries to prolong national border controls for up to two years.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: The crisis affects free movement within the Schengen area.
  • Who is affected: All travelers in the Schengen region.
  • Impact on processing times: In some countries, the refugee crisis is causing processing delays because of the need to divert resources to asylum applications. Travel in and out of Greece and travel within the Schengen area may be affected.
  • Business impact: As several countries have already instituted border controls, travelers should carry their passports and any relevant visas or permits. Travel is permitted between Schengen countries, but travelers may need to show their passport, D visa, Schengen C visa or EU residence permit.

Background: The deadline follows a set of recommendations based on an evaluation report by the commission last month finding “serious deficiencies” in Greek border management.

The crisis that began last summer has been an ongoing challenge to European free movement principles, as approximately 2,000 refugees per day, mostly fleeing conflict in Syria, arrive on Greek shores in the hopes of reaching other European countries. Several countries, including Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway and Sweden, have reintroduced temporary border controls, and some member states asked the European Commission in January to prepare the legal and practical basis for prolonging the measures.

In addition to prolonging border checks, the measures would mean refugees would have to stay in Greece for a longer period before traveling on to preferred destinations, such as Germany.

BAL Analysis: Should Greece fail to meet the deadline for the recommended changes, it would lay the legal basis for the commission to invoke Article 26, which permits member states to continue border controls beyond the initial six-month period for up to two years on the grounds of exceptional circumstances.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact uk@balglobal.com.

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