Friday, January 29, 2016
Threat of Schengen expulsion a new EU humiliation for Greeks
January 29, 2016
Six months after Greece narrowly avoided a disorderly exit from the euro, a new threat looms that many in Athens see as equally damaging: being summarily ejected from Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone.
Brussels this week gave the faltering administration of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras three months to take control of Greece’s maritime border with Turkey, set up reliable identity checks for refugees and other migrants and provide medium-term shelter for up to 50,000 arrivals.
If the Syriza-led government is unable to meet the deadline, Greeks will lose access to a coveted privilege of EU membership: seamless travel across most European borders with the wave of a national identity card.
It is a worrying prospect for a nation grown accustomed to frequent travelling within Europe, with tens of thousands of young Greeks studying in Europe’s core capitals and increasing numbers migrating to find jobs as the crisis shrinks opportunities for working at home.
Leaving Schengen would be “disastrous”, said Kostis Michalos, who travels frequently to Brussels and other European cities in his role as deputy chairman of the Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
“It would mark the beginning of the end of our eurozone identity,” said Mr Michalos.
“It’s the political connotation even more than the possible inconvenience: you’re losing freedom of movement and that’s a big loss.”