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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 13-Feb-2016
13-Feb-16 World View -- Increasingly desperate European Union threatens Greece over refugee crisis

Web Log - February, 2016

13-Feb-16 World View -- Increasingly desperate European Union threatens Greece over refugee crisis

Nato deploys warships to Aegean sea to deter people smugglers

This morning's key headlines from

Increasingly desperate European Union threatens Greece over refugee crisis

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) appears to be wagging her finger at Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (AP)
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) appears to be wagging her finger at Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (AP)

European Union foreign ministers have given Greece a three-month ultimatum to remedy "deficiencies" in controlling the influx of migrants, most from Turkey. The European Commission is threatening to remove Greece from the Schengen Zone of visa-free travel if Greece fails to remedy the problem by mid-May.

The "deficiencies" found by the European Commission are that Greece failed to properly register and fingerprint migrants when they arrived at the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.

The rules about registering migrants comes from the Geneva convention, which was adopted by the EU in the "Dublin II" regulation of 2003. As we reported in August of last year, many migrants are refusing to be fingerprinted when they arrive in Greece, because then they would have to apply for asylum in Greece. If accepted, they could be required to stay in Greece, and if rejected, they could be deported back to their countries of origin. Instead, most migrants prefer to reach the wealthier countries such as Britain or Germany, where they can take advantage of more generous benefits.

When migrants began arriving in Lesbos and other Greek islands last summer, Greece was overwhelmed by something like 3,000 migrants per day. The migrants were stuck on the islands, and Greece was under tremendous pressure from the EU because of the allegedly deplorable conditions for the migrants on the islands. So Greece instituted a ferry service from the islands to Athens, to comply with the EU request.

However, then the migrants traveled from Athens to the border with Macedonia, and started a tsunami of migrants to the north, with most headed for Germany. So readers may recall the drama last year, as one country after another began to close their borders, forcing the flood of migrants to take another route. ( "20-Oct-15 World View -- As winter approaches, thousands of European refugees may be trapped in the cold")

Greece never did comply with EU demands that every migrant be registered and fingerprinted while in Greece, and now the EU is setting a three-month ultimatum.

Removing Greece from the Schengen Zone would be a new financial disaster for Greece, as it would cripple Greece's tourist industry and also make it a lot more difficult for Greece to visit other countries. Furthermore, tens of thousands of migrants would be stranded in Greece, as other countries completely closed their borders.

Greece's financial crisis is in a kind of remission, as it's been out of the headlines for a while. But Greece still owes 200 billion euros in loans and 50% of young people are unemployed. Capital controls on banks are still in place, and Greek people can only withdraw a maximum of 60 euros per day from their bank accounts. So the financial crisis is far from over, and the mixture of the financial crisis and the refugee crisis has the potential to be explosive. AFP and Kathimerini (Athens) and EU Dublin II Regulations

European Union in chaos over the refugee crisis

The refugee crisis has brought the European Union to almost total political chaos. Even though it's still mid-Winter, there are still about 2,000 migrants arriving from Turkey every day, and that number is expected to increase substantially in the warm Spring weather.

The EU has tried one desperate measure after another, such as suspending Schengen Zone rules in several countries and imposing border controls. The most prominent measure was an agreement in November to give $3.2 billion to Turkey in exchange for controlling the flow of migrants to Greece. However, that money hasn't yet been paid, and few people believe it will work anyway.

The EU has also promised to pay Greece one billion euros to set up and operate relocation camps for migrants. Greek officials say that that money will only be enough for six months or so, and anyway, that money hasn't been paid yet either.

So now the EU is saying that the refugee problem is all Greece's fault, and is trying a new desperate measure -- threatening to eject Greece from the Schengen Zone. Few people believe that idea will work either. Business Insider and Kathimerini

Nato deploys warships to Aegean sea to deter people smugglers

One more measure being adopted to try to slow the flow of migrants from Turkey to Greece is being taken not by the European Union but by the Northeast Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato).

Three Nato warships are arriving in the Aegean Sea to deter people smugglers transporting migrants from Turkey to Greece. Their jobs will not be about "stopping or pushing back refugee boats," according to Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg. Instead, they will be primarily tasked to provide Turkish and Greek coastguards and EU border agency Frontex with information on human trafficking and criminal networks operating in the eastern Mediterranean.

The advantage of using Nato ships is freedom of movement. Greek ships have to stay in Greek territorial waters, and Turkish ships have to stay in Turkish territorial waters. But Nato ships can travel in either.

Theoretically, the Nato ships will not participate in "search and rescue" operations. If they spot a migrant ship in trouble, then they will notify the Greek or Turkish coast guards, and will only take action if it's required immediately to save lives. If refugees are taken on board, then the plan is to return them back to Turkey, something that Turkey has not yet agreed to.

According to Amnesty International, Nato ships MUST carry out immediate search and rescue operations:

"Any NATO ships that witness a boat in distress must provide immediate life-saving assistance. Hundreds of refugees, including many children, have already died this year attempting the treacherous journey across the Aegean.

In no way must NATO forces become yet one more barrier between refugees and the international protection they are legally entitled to.

Intercepting refugees attempting to reach Europe and pushing them back to Turkey where 2.5 million are already hosted would be a serious violation of their right to claim asylum, and would fly in the face of international law."

The mission will be performed by Nato's Maritime Command Standing Maritime Group 2, which is under German command, and is comprised of five ships from different allies. Three ships are being deployed immediately, with Denmark and the Netherlands also planning to participate in the mission. BBC and Foreign Policy and NATO Maritime Command and Russia Today

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 13-Feb-16 World View -- Increasingly desperate European Union threatens Greece over refugee crisis thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (13-Feb-2016) Permanent Link
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