by Liam Deacon
The Schengen zone, Europe’s passport-free travel area, is set to
be suspended for two years in response to the deepening migration
Nations will be allowed to continue making checks on their borders
for the next two years, unless migrant numbers miraculously subside in
the coming six weeks. The decision was taken by European interior
ministers, against the will of the European Commission, who had pleaded
with them to preserve the “union’s biggest ever achievement”.
There are already temporary border measures in place across much of
the continent, which can only remain in place for six months. There are
checks between Germany and Austria; Denmark and Germany; Sweden and Denmark; Austria and Slovenia; Austria and Hungary; and Slovenia and Croatia.
The Dutch migration minister Klaas Dijkhoff, who chaired talks in
Amsterdam on Monday, has now announced the decision to trigger “article
26” of the Schengen rules, allowing border controls to be extended for
up to two years.
Speaking to the Times, An EU official said: “If border controls were allowed to remain for two years, it is difficult to see that they would ever be removed”.
Officials are also reported to be working on plans, first announced three days ago, to expel Greece
from the free the travel area. The nation has repeatedly failed to stop
or register hundreds of thousands of migrants arriving from Turkey and
Bulgaria, simply waving them on to Northern Europe.
They are also studying a Belgian proposal to set up an EU detention
camp on Greek territory for more than a quarter of a million migrants
while their asylum claims are processed. Jean-Claude Juncker, the
Commission president, even backed a Slovenian call for European
countries to send armed police and border guard units to Macedonia,
which is outside the EU, to stop the flow of migrants.
Austria, Belgium and Germany are backing the plans to seal off Greece
with fences unless the migrant flow is drastically reduced in the next
six weeks. Germany’s stance has taken some by surprise, given that
Chancellor Merkel has previously condemned the construction of all
fences, even claiming their erection could spark a war in the Balkans.
Yiannis Mouzalas, the Greek interior minister, defended Greece by
arguing that the only way to stop migrants arriving from Turkey was to
shoot them. “It is very difficult to stop small boats coming except
sinking or shooting them, which is against our European values and Greek
values and we will not do that”, he said.