quinta-feira, 21 de janeiro de 2016

EU told it has 6 weeks to save Schengen border-free travel

January 21, 2016 12:41 pm
EU told it has 6 weeks to save Schengen border-free travel
Gideon Rachman in Davos and Andrew Byrne in Budapest

Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, has warned that the EU has “six to eight weeks” to save the Schengen system of border-free travel.
Mr Rutte said at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the arrival of spring weather would see an increase of refugee flows that could cause an irretrievable breakdown in the system, as member countries move to restore frontier controls.

Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, told the same panel in Davos that the EU needed to initiate a “Marshall Plan” to foster economic development in the countries bordering Europe. The goal would be to stem refugee flows by creating better economic conditions in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.
Mr Schäuble, who is known to be careful with German taxpayers’ money, acknowledged that such a plan would cost billions. Asked whether Germany, which received more than 1m would-be refugees in 2015, could cope with another 1m in 2016, Mr Schäuble replied that he did not even want to think about such a question.
There has already been some erosion of the Schengen system, with Sweden’s recent restoration of checks on its border with Denmark in response to refugee flows. Mr Rutte said that 35,000 people had crossed the sea from Turkey to Greece so far this year, compared with 1,700 in the whole of January 2015. He suggested that unless the EU improved its response, the current rate of crossings could quadruple in a few weeks as the weather improves. “We cannot cope with the numbers any longer,” he said.
The Dutch prime minister called for urgent action to be taken, including the implementation of an EU-Turkish deal on refugee flows, the strengthening of the EU’s external frontier and the implementation of agreements on sharing refugees around the EU.
The debate on Schengen comes as EU governments struggle to control a refugee influx that shows little signs of abating. UN High Commissioner for Refugees officials said this week more than 2,000 were arriving in Serbia from Macedonia daily, enduring temperatures as low as -19C on their journey.
Macedonia temporarily closed its border with Greece to migrants on Wednesday night, citing transit hold-ups further north along the route. The closure came hours after Austria announced a cap on asylum claims of 37,500 for whole of 2016.
Peter Szijjarto, Hungary’s foreign minister, said the closure, which left at least 600 people trapped at the Greece-Macedonia border, was the “inevitable consequence” of Greece “not doing its share of the Schengen obligations”.
Miro Cerar, Slovenia’s prime minister, has urged other EU countries to jointly deploy police forces and other resources to Macedonia’s border with Greece, saying that Athens was under “immense pressure”.

The EU is struggling to respond to a surge of desperate migrants that has resulted in thousands of deaths since the beginning of the year
Mr Cerar also warned that any new border restrictions by northern countries would prompt similar moves by Ljubljana and its neighbours.
“If Austria adopts measures to reduce the inflow of refugees, Slovenia will have to immediately react and we will notify Croatia about our measures,” local press quoted the prime minister as saying. “We are in contact with Austria and I hope that we will be informed on time about their decisions.”
● Questions about the prospect of Britain voting to leave the EU elicited a degree of unanimity from European leaders in Davos. Mr Schäuble said a UK departure would be a “disaster”, while Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, said it would be a “tragedy”, adding that “nothing could be worse than to see a member state leave”.

Earlier, in comments to journalists, Mr Valls cast doubt on the idea the British government would secure agreement on a package of reforms to keep it in the bloc at the next EU summit in February. Negotiations would “need more time”, he suggested.

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