by Aggelos Skordas
Greek nationals arriving at major airports around Germany in recent days are forced to go through a humiliating and strict security check process. German authorities have indicated that some 1,000 migrants and refugees have arrived in the country presenting false travel documents, between January and October 2017, and this is the reason they imposed stringent controls on those travelling from Greece.
The German government’s decision to suspend certain Schengen Area provisions for Greek travellers has caused a crisis between Athens and Berlin. The backlash led to a staff-level meeting between European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos and representatives from the two countries on Wednesday in Brussels.
European Commission spokeswoman for Migration Policy Natasha Bertaud said on Tuesday that “the Commission takes note of the assurances made by Germany that these measures are targeted and limited to what is strictly necessary to safeguard public policy and internal security, while the impact on freedom of movement will be small”. As she explained, Germany is one of the countries that have temporarily restored internal border controls, in particular on flights from Greece, in order to address the risk of undocumented migration. Last week Athens lodged a demarche with Berlin over the increased checks, with the later arguing that the extraordinary security measures were first imposed on November 12 and that its authorities have briefed Greek officials betimes. The stringent checks will last for six months.
Greek travellers arriving at German airports describe how they are separated from other European Union and Schengen Zone nationals and steer to different facilities, where they are subjected to extensive interrogation and checks. German authorities express concerns that Greek identification cards are easy to be forged by jihadist terrorists aiming to commit attacks in German soil. Germany is not the only country to have imposed the extraordinary security checks for travelers from other European Union countries. Similar measures have been introduced by Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
According to Greek Foreign Ministry sources, despite the repeated communications between Deputy Minister, Nikos Toskas, and German Interior Minister, Thomas de Maiziere, and the second’s assurances for the temporary application of the measures which will not be focusing on European citizens, the opposite is the case. In addition, the Greek authorities indicate that since November 12, more than 12,000 travelers have been subjected to strict security checks and only 20 people were arrested.
It is reminded that the Schengen Agreement abolished many of the European Union’s internal border controls, enabling passport-free movement across the member states. Today there are 26 Schengen countries, 22 of which are also members of the European Union, while four are not in the bloc (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein). At the same time, six of the 28 European Union member states are outside the Schengen Zone (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom).