Extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council: Commission presents Action Plan for immediate measures to support Greece - EU monitor

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Extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council: Commission presents Action Plan for immediate measures to support Greece

Source: European Commission (EC) i, published on Wednesday, March 4 2020.

As a contribution to the extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council called for today, the Commission is presenting an Action Plan of measures to be taken by the Union and the Member States together to provide critical support to Greece in managing the extraordinary situation at the external borders. This follows the visit yesterday of President von der Leyen i with Presidents Michel i, Sassoli i and Prime Minister Plenković at the Greek-Turkish and Bulgarian-Turkish borders alongside Prime Ministers Mitsotakis and Borissov.

Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas i, said: “In these extraordinary circumstances, the first priority is to ensure order at our external border. This difficult task cannot fall on Greece alone: it is the responsibility of the whole of Europe. We have to show unequivocally that the entire European Union will put its strength and support behind Member States faced with external pressure. This is the message passed alongside Prime Minister Mitsotakis yesterday and the message I am convinced Interior Ministers will rally behind today.”

Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson i, said: “The measures we will present at the extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council today are based on our increased ability to deliver practical support, be it experts or equipment. Our focus is making sure that a short-term political crisis does not turn into a long-term humanitarian one. We need to stand by our values and put in place structural solutions to long-term problems. I would like to renew our political call on Member States to show solidarity with Greece, also in the form of finding solutions for the unaccompanied minors in the islands.”

Urgent action is needed to address the immediate challenges faced by Greece at both its land and sea borders with Turkey, and to monitor developments in Bulgaria and Cyprus. At the same time, structural and sustainable solutions are needed for the EU as a whole. To this end, the Commission intends to soon present proposals for a New Pact on Migration and Asylum.

As the Commission's contribution to the extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council, we propose the following actions to support Greece, whilst remaining vigilant of developments in Bulgaria and Cyprus.

  • Member States to provide the assets needed for the launch of two rapid border intervention operations by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency i (Frontex) at the land and sea borders between Greece and Turkey.
  • Frontex to coordinate a new return programme for the quick return of persons without the right to stay to countries of origin from Greece.
  • Financial assistance of up to €700 million to be provided to Greece. €350 million is immediately available to support border and migration management, in particular to support increased reception capacity, voluntary returns and the infrastructure needed to carry out screening procedures for health and security. The Commission will propose an amending budget to make available a further €350 million.
  • Member States to respond to the Civil Protection Mechanism call triggered by Greece to provide medical equipment, shelters, tents, blankets, and other necessary supplies.
  • Member States to respond to the call by the European Asylum Support Office to provide 160 experts to be deployed in Greece.

In addition, it is important to further strengthen regional and operational cooperation with our partners. The EU should further develop a coordination mechanism with the Western Balkans countries. Status Agreements to be concluded and fully implemented between the Western Balkans and Frontex. Moreover, resolute actions will be taken to step up the fight against smuggling.

Background

Urgent action is needed to address the immediate challenges faced by Greece at both its land and sea borders with Turkey, and to monitor developments in Bulgaria and Cyprus.

President von der Leyen and Vice-President Schinas visited Greece yesterday together with Presidents Sassoli and Michel and Prime Minister Plenković to express full solidarity with Greece and to discuss European support measures.

An extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council is meeting today, following a request made by the Commission, to discuss the situation.

The situation faced by Greece is due to extraordinary circumstances. Beyond acting on these, the EU needs a structural and sustainable policy for migration management that works in all conditions and addresses all the dimensions of the issue. To this end, the Commission is working intensively on proposals for a New Pact on Migration and Asylum to be presented soon.

For more information

President von der Leyen's remarks at the Greek-Turkish border