EU Must Avoid Dismantling Schengen Travel Zone, Asselborn Saysby
The European Union has no plan to even temporarily cut Greece out of its passport-free Schengen zone and any suspension of open travel means “it will never come back,” Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said.
With Europe likely to face increased migration from Syria and other conflict zones throughout the next decade, the 28-member bloc must immediately start giving more money, equipment and authority to its Frontex border forces, Asselborn said Wednesday during a visit to Prague. Sealing Greece’s northern borders with Macedonia and unilaterally reinstating border checks within the Schengen area is “not a solution,” he said.
Tensions over the handling of the refugee crisis have escalated, with Austria and some eastern EU members pushing for sealing the Greek-Macedonian border. Austria began admitting only a limited number of migrants, triggering a chain reaction of closures in countries to the south that’s stoking fears that Schengen may cease functioning.
Political divisions are widening ahead of an extraordinary summit of the EU leaders on March 7 called to take stock of efforts to secure the bloc’s external frontiers. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is defending her open-border policy in three regional elections in March, is pushing for EU states to share the burden of redistributing migrants in the face of opposition from countries who have rejected the plan.
Some EU members including Slovakia, Hungary and Poland have called for a “Plan B” that would cut Greece out of the Schengen area, pointing to Greece’s inability to secure its Mediterranean shores.
“There is no plan B,” Asselborn said. “If Schengen disappears, it will never come back.”