Greece opposes suspension of Schengen, minister stresses

Citizens' Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis on Thursday stressed Athens' support for any proposal that strengthens the Schengen treaty but also its rejection of any "thoughts that reverse Community entitlements".
Speaking at the EU justice and home affairs ministers' council held in Brussels, he urged his counterparts to look forward to deeper European integration and not "back to a pre-EU era".
Papoutsis said it was positive that the problems caused by migration flows at the EU's external borders were recognised as a European and not just national problem, requiring "real solidarity between member-states". He called for ways to further enhance the practical implementation of the principle of solidarity and a just distribution of the burden between member-states, noting that any other approach could only lead to harmful and disintegrative phenomena that would act against the best interests of the EU and its citizens.
He called for measures that would boost the efforts of member-states to guard the EU's external borders and promote better policing in order to deter illegal entry.

The minister stressed that weight should be placed on strengthening control of external borders and tackling any shortfalls and not on 'punishing' member-states that were on the outskirts of the EU.

Papoutsis also underlined that creating an area without internal borders and the free movement of European citizens within the Schengen area was one of the fundamental principles of the EU and the most basic pillar for European integration that had to be protected at all costs.

He noted that proposals for mechanisms to suspend participation in specific sections and restore controls at internal borders essentially changed the entire structure of the Schengen entitlements and created issues of agreement with the EU Treaty itself and the fundamental principles that this envisages. Such a suspension mechanism might even be consider contrary to EU law, he warned.

The Greek minister was in favour of expanding the powers of Frontex, both in terms of preventing the entry of illegal immigrants and ensuring their immediate repatriation.

The Greek side further stressed the need for a solution to the issue of third-country nationals that were illegally resident in the EU but whose removal was currently not possible for technical or other reasons. Among these he suggested further strengthening community policy for voluntary and mandatory repatriation and ensuring implementation of re-admission agreements.

Among the minister's suggestions was a common European policy for migration and asylum that would reduce the burden of increased migration flows for member-states on the external borders, one that would redistribute illegal migrants to member-states based on population, economic and geographic criteria.

He stressed the need to revise current regulations in the Dublin II treaty that placed the burden of coping with migrant flows exclusively on the shoulders of member-states on the external borders of the EU, which were called on to shoulder the burden for the EU as a whole.

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