If the EU doesn’t come up with a common solution to the current refugee crisis, Schengen will collapse, Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, told the media on Thursday.
After Thursday’s Justice and Home Affairs Council, the Commissioner told reporters: “In the next 10 days, we need tangible and clear results on the ground. Otherwise there is a risk that the whole system will completely break down.”
Avramopoulos underlined that the EU Member States must find a common EU solution, as “there is no time for uncoordinated actions,” stressing that “lonely initiatives do not lead anywhere.”
The Commissioner specifically referred to Austria’s plan to limit the number of refugees who can apply for asylum while he was also critical with the decision of the Austrian government to meet with Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Croatia, FYROM, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia and in order to unilaterally discuss about the imposition of strict refugee policies.
“Moving to the pressing situation in our neighborhood: the route along the Western Balkans…The possibility of a humanitarian crisis is very real and very near…We cannot continue to deal through unilateral, bilateral or trilateral actions…the first negative effects and impacts are already visible,” Avramopoulos said.
“We have a shared responsibility – all of us – towards our neighboring states, both EU and non-EU, but also towards those desperate people….And we cannot put caps on how many asylum seekers we receive. This is simply not according to EU and international rules. I have reminded Member States today, that everyone must respect and apply the rules,” the Commissioner added.
Austria refugee policy
On 24 February, Austria, a traditional German ally, decided together with the Western Balkans states to make it harder for the migrants and refugees to cross the Balkan Route. The decision of the States, was criticized by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi who said that the border closures will create further chaos and increase the burden on Greece.
Greek migration Minister, Yannis Mouzalas also criticized the Vienna meeting, in which Greece and Germany didn’t participate, and stressed that “Greece will not accept becoming a warehouse of souls, even if this were to be done with major (EU) funding.”
On the other hand, the Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner criticized both Greece accusing the country of being unable to guard its water borders, and also called the German government to decide if it wants to implement an open-door or a stricter refugee policy.
“They (the German government) are still signaling an open-door policy toward Greece, but they expect Austria to stop the influx. Those are two very different signals,” the Austrian Minister said.
Besides the issue between Austria and Greece, this week, Belgium also decided to temporarily abandon the Schengen rules and increase police presence along its borders with France. Moreover, the Hungarian government also said that it will challenge, the EU refugee relocation plan for the people in need, which aims to ease the burden that Greece and Italy are carrying.