EU-Turkey deal fails to stem refugee flight to Greece

Karolina Tagaris
They waved, cheered and smiled, elated to have made it to Europe at dawn on Sunday in a packed blue rubber motor boat.
The 50 or so refugees and migrants were among the first to arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos on day one of an EU deal with Turkey designed to close the route by which a million people crossed the Aegean Sea to Greece in 2015.
Exhausted but relieved, the new arrivals wrapped their wet feet in thermal blankets as volunteers handed out dry clothes and supplies.
Reuters witnesses saw three boats arrive within an hour in darkness in the early hours of Sunday. Two men were pulled out unconscious from one of the boats amid the screams of fellow passengers and were later pronounced dead.
Twelve boats had arrived on the shoreline near the airport by 6 a.m. (0400 GMT), a police official said. A government account put the number of arrivals across Greece in the past 24 hours at 875 people.
Under the European Union deal with Turkey, all migrants and refugees, including Syrians, who cross to Greece illegally by sea from March 20 will be sent back to Turkey once they are registered and their asylum claims have been processed.
That is expected to take effect from April 4, by which time Greece must have in place a fast-track process for assessing asylum claims. The EU has pledged to help Greece set up a task force of some 4,000 staff, including judges, interpreters, border guards and others to manage each case individually.
"The agreement comes into effect from today. Greek authorities have done whatever is necessary and will continue to do what it promised," George Kyritsis, a government spokesman for the refugee crisis, told Reuters.
"Other parties (to the agreement) should also do their part," he said, referring to Greece's EU partners and Turkey.
In return, the EU will take in thousands of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey and reward it with more money, early visa-free travel and progress in its EU membership negotiations.
Among the early morning arrivals on the seaweed strewn beach on the south of Lesbos was Syrian Hussein Ali Muhammad, whose studies were interrupted after the war began. He said he wanted to go to Denmark to continue university. Asked if he was aware of the European decision, he said:
"I know that. I hope to cross these borders. I hope I complete my studies here (in Europe), just this. I don't want money, I just want to complete my studies. This is my message."
Muhammed, who worked odd jobs in Turkey to pay a smuggler to bring him across, said he did not want to go back. "I worked very, very hard in Turkey, I collected the money to come here ... It's very dangerous and not good."
Another arrival, 30-year-old computer engineer Mohammed from Daraa in Syria, said he hoped to stay in Greece until he found a way to be reunited with his wife and son inGermany. "I know the decision. I hope to (meet with) my wife and children," he said.
Doubts remain about whether the deal is legal or workable. It was not clear what would happen to the tens of thousands of migrants and refugees already in Greece.
It was too early to say if the deal would be effective, a senior coastguard official said. "We haven't yet seen the terms of the deal properly," said Antonis Sofiadelis, head of the coastguard operations on Lesbos.
"But if returns begin I believe it will act as a deterrent. They (migrants) won't want to pay $1,000-2,000 to a smuggler. Everything depends on whether Turkey implements its part of the deal.
"What we're doing on our part is boosting the asylum process."
Authorities in Lesbos began removing refugees and migrants from the island on Saturday to make space for new arrivals. The island has a capacity to host 3,500 people at a place set up to register arrivals.
At least 144,000 people, mostly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans, have arrived in Greece so far in 2016 according to U.N. refugee agency data. About 60 percent were women and children.
Of those people, more than half landed on Lesbos, the island on the frontline of Europe's biggest migration crisis since World War Two.
Few, if any, had planned to stay in the country, seeking instead a route to northern Europe where more support and jobs are available than in Greece, which is in the grip of an economic crisis.
But border closures along the main route north through the Balkans have meant at least 48,000 people are stranded in Greece, in camps and ports across the country. About 12,000 people remain at a squalid tent camp near the Macedonian border hoping to cross.

First published on, 21.3.2016

How the E.U.-Turkey Deal Came to Be

Apostolis Fotiadis

German chancellor Angela Merkel has trumpeted the agreement to return Syrian refugees to Turkey from Greece as a "European solution." But with no real accord across the 28 member states, terms and conditions that will be difficult to put into practice and continuing arrivals to Greece, is it truly a breakthrough?

Turkey and the European Union last Friday announced a plan under which Syrian refugees and migrants arriving in Greece will be returned to Turkey. Turkey seems to have agreed to the terms and conditions, despite not all its demands having been met.

The deal also aims to address the dire conditions of Greece's asylum infrastructure. Greece is simply not equipped to cope with the current scales of arrivals, nor is it in a position to process large numbers of asylum requests and conduct mass returns.

The German chancellor Angela Merkel faces a difficult battle over the coming months to keep the deal alive, let alone to develop and implement it. But, deal or no deal, European leaders understand her intentions.

The E.U.-Turkey deal was initially spelled out last October, when it was known as "The Merkel Plan." This was during the same period in which E.U. commissioner Jean-Claude Junker brought up the idea of Greek-Turkish joint patrols on the Aegean Sea to implement the scheme. Greece rejected the idea, instead calling for a bilateral "migrant readmission plan" with Turkey.

When that version of the plan did not pan out, Merkel simply repackaged the underlying ideas. During the last few months of 2015 she put enormous pressure on Brussels and managed to bring Turkey to the negotiating table as a privileged interlocutor. At the time, Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu asked for multiple concessions in exchange for mitigating the flow of asylum seekers into the E.U.
These included visa liberalization plans for Turkish citizens, the resumption of E.U.-Turkish accession negotiations and the earmarking of 3 billion euros ($3.4bn) for refugee aid and services.

Despite establishing the E.U.-Turkey negotiations on a council level, last December’s talks led to little progress. The flow of asylum seekers remained very high over the winter and E.U. states were distracted by diplomatic tensions over an impending closure of the Western Balkan route. Turkey, meanwhile, did not express any urgency in wrapping up the deal. It was simply biding its time so it could up the ante. The
plan was reintroduced at the beginning of this year. But this time it was sold as the brainchild of Dutch Labour Party leader Diederik Samsom. The Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte smoothly transformed the proposal into an E.U. Presidency plan. Since then it has often been cited as The Samsom-Merkel Plan.

Samsom’s proposal involved the imminent blanket return of all arrivals on Greek soil to be transported back to Turkey in exchange for a package trade-off: a comprehensive resettlement of more than 150,000 registered Syrian refugees from Turkish camps. He hoped for a coalition of the willing – comprising Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria – to implement the resettlement process and absorb the population.

Alas this coalition of the willing quickly vanished when, a couple of weeks later, Austria broke away, aligning itself with the Visegrad Four (an alliance of four central European states - Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) and the Western Balkan side that unilaterally closed down the Western Balkan route to incoming asylum seekers, acting outside of E.U. institutional proceedings.

The "ringfencing" of Greece and blanket returns across the Aegean Sea are not necessarily conflicting ideas for European states that want to reduce the flow of refugees to a trickle. On the contrary, they serve as a complementary double "line of defence," as imagined by the rising nationalist stars, Austrian foreign minister Sebastian Kurz and Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, who have both called for the containment of refugees within Greece. Merkel denounced the leaders; then she focused on her own strategy.

On March 6, it was Merkel's turn to play the game outside of the bounds of E.U. institutions. She, Davutoglu and Mark Rutte held an impromptu closed-door meeting at the Turkish embassy in Brussels the night before the planned E.U.-Turkey migration summit on March 7. They practically rewrote, at will, the resolutions that would be presented the next morning. They force fed the new version to the E.U. Council, while casually describing it as "some additional ideas by Davutoglu."

And this is how the current version of the E.U.-Turkey deal came to be. The new element is that blanket returns will be based on an one-for-one model, meaning that for every person sent back from Greece to Turkey, one will fly from Turkey to the E.U. to be resettled. Returnees will be relegated to the end of the resettlement queue, in the hope that this will act as a deterrent for those contemplating similar
irregular crossings.

In the lead-up to last week's summit, various parties in Berlin and Brussels have generated inordinate pressure to push through the deal, while Merkel went public on an almost daily basis to promote a so-called "European solution" as the only decent alternative to central European unilateralism.

However, Cyprus arrived at the summit for the final round of talks having announced that it has no intention of permitting full negotiations for Turkey's E.U. membership. The draft text of the summit's resolutions does not mention any specifics on the issue, and many E.U. countries, including France, do not fully agree with the visa
liberalization part of the plan. There have only been vague references for an additional 3 billion euros of aid money, on top of the 3 billion already on the table, on conditional basis and only until 2018.

It is absurd to call such a deal "European" when it is clearly being forced upon so many E.U. partners without their direct involvement in the pre-summit discussions.

The E.U. is yet to come up with a concerted plan to resettle the proposed number of 18,000 people, with a possible addition of 54,000 to this number. So far, participation appears to be on a voluntary basis and is not based on proportional sharing of the burden across its 28 member states.

Observers and advocacy organizations working on the refugee crisis – among them major figures like the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights Nils Muiznieks, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch – have attacked the legality of the proposed blanket returns. They have unanimously contested that the deal is a gross violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Geneva Convention and various EU treaties and laws. Spain and Sweden have also expressed similar concerns.

The first day the plan was activated, more than 800 people crossed the Aegean, successfully reaching Greek shores. Given that the mechanisms for examining their refugee status and possibly returning them is not yet in place, they – like tens of thousands of others – will be restricted to the islands, until the process practically kicks off.

Without enough preparation time and mounting pressure to implement the deal, the situation on the European side might worsen. Legal, administrative and logistical challenges are inevitable with any new plan. But, failure to implement the one-in-one-out deal could quickly devolve into flagrant legal violations of the protections that should be afforded to all asylum seekers, including those being returned to Turkey. Before E.U. leaders rejoice at sealing the E.U.-Turkey deal, they might want to understand if they have walked into a trap.

Apostolis Fotiadis is a freelance journalist. He has reported on politics since 2005 with an emphasis on European immigration policy and ethnic conflicts in the Balkans. In early 2015, he published his book “Border Merchants” (ed. Potamos) which focused on how the European Union and especially European technocrats and the Commission interpret official immigration policy as a security concern with rapid militarisation of external borders.

First published in English on, 21.3.2016


No more refugees, just “irregulars”...

The deal of shame between E.U.-Turkey

 Stratis Bournazos

Below are some comments in immediate reaction to the agreement as announced on the afternoon of 18th March. We at AnalyzeGreece! consider this agreement to be of particular importance and gravity, which is why we sought to formulate an immediate reaction to it.

1. The agreement reiterates and fully confirms the main points from the statement made by EU leaders on 7th March (except for the added extensive references to international treaties and individual asylum claiming processes – obviously to calm the backlash the absence of these created), a statement strongly criticised by all humanitarian organisations, which claimed that it undermines international law. As regards today's agreement, I will refer to the first, immediate response by Amnesty International: “horrendous deal had been sealed shame on EU”, according to Iverna McGowan (head of Amnesty International al’s EU office), “a cyanide pill” to refugee rights”, according to John Dalhuisen (Amnesty’s Director for Europe and Central Asia”, while the press release is entitled “A historic blow to human rights”. Moreover, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), calls it “the deal of shame”: “European leaders have decided to barter migrants’ and asylum seekers’ dignity and rights for selfish short-term political gain. Such cynicism is despicable”.

2. The main aim, axis and core of the agreement is the stopping of flows from Turkey to Greece and Europe, not the tackling of the refugee crisis, much less the provision of international protection to those who have a right to it, and the protection of refugees. As such, the word “refugee” is only very rarely used in the text; instead, reference is made to migrants and “irregular migrants”. If, however, according to UNHCR data (as cited in a comment by Marilena Katsimi of Facebook), of those crossing the Greek border 91% are refugees (45% Syrian, 28% Afghan, 18% Iraqi - of whom 36% are children and 21% are women), this clearly means the stemming of refugee flows. In other words, the de facto abolition of international treaties, above all the Geneva Conventions, which require the provision of international protection to those in need: if all those wishing to come to Europe (the vast majority of which are refugees), are to be stopped, then they have no access to international protection.

3. For the reasons above, the three “filters for the reduction in flows”, to which Alexis Tsipras referred during the press conference, are all too eloquent. First, the war against traffickers, second, the presence of NATO ships, third, those who manage to pass through these two filters and who reach Greece will in essence be excluded from relocation (as they will be placed at the bottom of the list). In the words of the Prime Minister: “The first filter –and this is an obligation taken on by Turkey– is the dismantling of the network of traffickers operating on Turkish shores. The second filter is the operation of NATO.Turkey has now committed to withdraw the objections it has been posing until now, so that NATO operations can be carried out efficiently and effectively. The third filter was decided upon today. When neither the first nor the second filter are effective, we provide refugees and migrants with a strong disincentive to make use of trafficking networks so that they may reach the Greek islands: those who do come will not have priority in the relocation process and, if they are irregular migrants, they will be swiftly returned. If they are migrants in need of international protection, their claim will be examined on an individual basis [...]. We believe that the message of today's decision, the agreement between the EU and Turkey, is the activation of these three filters, so that we may have an immediate result the reduction of flows from Turkish shores to the Greek islands”. I think the filters speak for themselves, but I will make three comments, one for each filter.

Comment #1: when no legal and safe passage is available, no safe route, everyone, including refugees, makes use of trafficking networks. Therefore, if one takes the decision to “end irregular migration”, as stated in the agreement, then, in the absence of a legal route, one also puts an end to the possibility of refugees coming to Europe (or, more correctly, one makes the journey more expensive and dangerous, as new routes and illegal networks will without doubt be created). Comment #2: NATO ships will, in other words, act as a mobile sea fence throughout the Aegean, which will prevent refugees from reaching the coast. Comment #3: “they will not have priority”. That is, they will be punished, thereby having their right to relocation forfeited.

4. “All new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into Greek islands as from 20 March 2016 will be returned to Turkey”, reads the text of the agreement. A key question here is: Who is considered an “irregular migrant”? What will happen to, for example Afghans and Iraqis? I don't think there is any room for optimism: based on the overall spirit of the agreement - everyone will be considered to be irregular, except, perhaps, Syrians. And I say perhaps because there is no certainty even for Syrians. The agreement states that “for every Syrian being returned to Turkey from the Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU” – wording which reveals that Syrians will be returned, too.

5. Yet how will Syrians, who are prima facie considered refugees, be returned to Turkey, especially in light of the fact that the agreement makes explicit reference to respect for international law. The key term here is “safe third country”, which is used in the text. If Turkey is declared a “safe third country”, then Syrians can be returned legally. Of course, declaring Turkey to be a “safe third country” is both arbitrary and provocative, as Turkey has closed its borders with Syria, international organisations condemn it for refugee arrests and abuse, as well as expulsions and push backs to Syria and Iraq, there is no system for claiming asylum in place (except for European citizens, and temporary protection for Syrians), and it is not safe even for its own citizens: at the moment in which the agreement is signed, authoritarianism by the Davutoglu government is in its zenith, with pogroms against Kurds, mass arrests and the persecution of academics and journalists. By the way, the added status granted to Erdogan and Davutoglu through the agreement, precisely at this moment, is scandalous.

6. The resettlement programmes, unfortunately, look like a joke. Out of a total of 2.5 million Syrians in Turkey (a number which goes up to 3 million if we take account of the Afghans, Iraqis and Pakistanis), only 72,000 will be resettled – an infuriatingly small number, which confirms once more that the agreement bears no relation to any attempt to solve the refugee crisis.

7. Finally, as regards the references being made in the agreement to respect for international law, the processing of individual asylum claims, etc. Very briefly, and running the risk of being un-nuanced, I will say that not all of the eggs can be put in one basket. If the main aim is to curb refugee flows, this cannot take place whilst respecting international law. I will once more cite John Dalhuisen of Amnesty International (by the way, the fact that in the last few days we keep referring to texts by NGOs and humanitarian organisations, not by left wing political parties, is telling – but that is a different story): “Promises to respect international and European law appear suspiciously like sugar-coating the cyanide pill that refugee protection in Europe has just been forced to swallow.”
We will continue our coverage of this very important issue over the next few weeks. Concluding this commentary, I would like to say that the agreement is not a diplomatic success, as Alexiis Tsipras stated, but a significant defeat and embarrassment. Starting today, we must, both in Greece and in Europe, organise our resistance to the agreement. #StopTheDeal, #Refugees Welcome!

PS. Two pieces of good news, coming from Spain, on a Saturday, no less: at  Madrid city hall, the EU flag is at half mast in protest, while in Barcelona a large rally took place against the agreement (rallies had also taken place in previous days, while the Spanish Parliament had rejected the “preliminary” agreement of 7th March).

Stratis Bournazos is a journalist and historian, member of the editorial board of AnalyzeGreece! and Enthemata Avgis.\

Translated by Despina Biri

First published  in Greek on "Enthemata" of the newspaper "Avgi", 20.3.2016.


​​EU-Turkey non-deal: snap analysis

Paul Mason

The EU Summit on 7 March failed to reach agreement with Turkey but the outline of the deal to be done on 17–18 March is clear. Here’s the bullet points from the Heads of State statement, together with my commentary. These are enumerated as “principles”.Your head of state has signed up to them:

* “To return all new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into the Greek islands with the costs covered by the EU;”
… Not legal. If these “irregular migrants” claim asylum they are a refugee and protected from return under international law until their claim has been processed. It will be challenged in the courts immediately.

* “To resettle, for every Syrian readmitted by Turkey from Greek islands, another Syrian from Turkey to the EU Member States, within the framework of the existing commitments;”
…This presumably starts on implementation, and is not retrospective. It leaves around 30,000 refugees and migrants stranded in Greece, which is manageable. But it replaces law with arbitrary power. Who decides which refugees in Turkey get to come to Europe? Why not simply put the ones who want to leave Turkey for Europe on a bus or flight to Berlin, avoiding the peril of crossing to Lesbos, being sent back and then — presumably — joining an arbitrarily organised queue of people in Turkey?
The whole thing would be better organised through the #safepassage demanded by NGOs and will redouble calls for that.

* “To accelerate the implementation of the visa liberalization roadmap with all Member States with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016;”
…Not possible. One state can block it. Will David Cameron sign-off visa free travel for 75 million Turkish citizens to Britain 23 days before the Brexit referendum. Will Poland sign up? Will Cyprus? Dream on.
[Its been pointed out since I wrote this that the visa free agreement is with Schengen only. But the agreement says “all member states” do I think my point is valid.]

* “To speed up the disbursement of the initially allocated 3 billion euros to ensure funding of a first set of projects before the end of March and decide on additional funding for the Refugee Facility for Syrians”
…Remarkably, Erdogan has demanded exactly what he is shown demanding in the leaked Tusk-Erdogan notes, which I have doubted the veracity of. Nevertheless, €6bn would be cheap for Europe if it stemmed voluntarily the desire of people to leave camps in Turkey and come to Europe.

* “To prepare for the decision on the opening of new chapters in the accession negotiations as soon as possible, building on the October 2015 European Council conclusions”
…This is one of the most shameful commitments the EU has ever given. We should state, now, there is no possibility of Turkey joining the EU under the AK Party. In the leaked documents that’s what Erdogan says: put us out of our misery. Europe should, as I suggest in the Guardian, signal to the secular, democratic forces in Turkey that it will re-start accession talks only when there has been a stable democracy for, say, five years, with full commitments to human rights, press freedom etc honoured. We should have no truck with the Christian right who say Turkey cannot enter because it is muslim, or because it will flood Europe with cheap labour: the issue is democracy. Turkey cannot begin accession talks because it does not meet the Copenhagen criteria for membership, and is moving in the opposite direction. I think there will be outrage way beyond the Christian right in Europe over this, if it happens.

* “To work with Turkey in any joint endeavour to improve humanitarian conditions inside Syria which would allow for the local population and refugees to live in areas which will be more safe”
…Is this a commitment to create a safe haven? Militarily? Via the Turkish military, which has been covertly supplying IS, and bombing the Kurds? If not, the onus on EU leaders is to say so sharpish because there is no consent in Europe for the creation of safe havens, welcome though they would be.
And that’s it. Nothing on human rights in the entire document; nothing about stop bombing the Kurds; nothing about stop jailing newspaper editors; no incentive to cease burning down the local offices of opposition parties.

The best that can be said is that the negotiations failed and that these are some kind of holding position to stop Erdogan pulling the trigger on another million refugees into the islands.

These bullet points, reflecting Turkey’s demands completely, will never be implemented because the EU leaders represent democracies, where international law applies and where entry into commitments — on visas, EU accession etc — is the subject of parliamentary debate. Get real.

Paul Mason is  a journalist,  writer and  Broadcaster. Author of "Postcapitalism — A Guide to Our Future", producer of "#ThisIsACoup documentary".

First published on

The real heart of the refugee crisis is the lack of solidarity between member states of EU

Interview of Reiner Bauböck to Dimitris Christopoulos
Reiner Bauböck is among the most distinguished European political scientist working on issues related to citizenship and migration in Europe after the end of the Cold War. He is holding a chair in social and political theory at the European University Institute in Florence. In 2009, he initiated the Eudo observatory on citizenship in Europe, which he ever since co-directs. Eudo Citizenship is in our days the major academic structure working extensively on citizenship studies across Europe. Reiner Bauböck will be in Athens on March 9th to give a lecture titled “Democratic Inclusion: The Challenges of Migration and European Integration”. The lecture is part of the series “Rethinking Europe”, organized by the Office in Greece of the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, in cooperation with the “Initiative for the Defense of Society and Democracy” and will be held in “Gazarte”, Voutadon 32-34 (Metro Kerameikos), on March 9, at 19:00, with simultaneous translation Greek-English.
You have dedicated your academic work to citizenship strategies and inclusion of migrants. How would you evaluate the way the European Union has been dealing with this matter after the end of the Cold War?
The EU has very limited competences in these matters. In the 1992 Maastricht Treaty it introduced a common Union citizenship but it has not followed up with harmonizing the nationality laws of member states that regulate access to this status. The Tampere European Council of 1999 promoted a common asylum policy and approximating the rights of long-term resident third country nationals to those of citizens, but in the 2000s this agenda shifted towards emphasizing integration requirements and tests. The slow and incomplete Europeanization of these policy areasin the past creates now a real risk of radical renationalization. The failure of member states to agree on burden sharing in the refugee crisis could trigger a breakdown of the Schengen Agreement on open borders and the Brexit threat serves as an excuse for several member states to suggest new restrictions on free movement rights for EU citizens. One lesson to draw is: policies towards non-European and European migrants can no longer be kept separate. If the former fail, the latter will be affected too.
How would you phrase in a few words your recommendations for a sustainable and just integration policy for migrants in our days in the EU?
First of all, there is no integration if there is no prospect for full membership. Long-term immigrants must be offered access to citizenship and their descendants should have citizenship by birth. Second, naturalisation should not only be possible, but also be actively promoted. This sends a signal to native populations that immigrants are welcome as future citizens. Third, not all migrants are long-term immigrants who settle in a “receiving country”. European integration, especially for the younger generations, is primarily about free movement within a space of open borders. Both for EU citizens and for immigrants from other countries moving within Europe must not come at the expense of access to full citizenship. Times of residence in the EU territory should therefore count for naturalisation in any of the member states as well as for protection against deportation. Finally, promoting shared democratic and liberal values is important for integration – for immigrants as well as for native populations. Targeting certain groups of migrants for value training and scrutiny without also attacking xenophobia and social exclusion of immigrants is counter-productive since it reinforces nativist prejudice.
There are two trends in Europe today regarding citizenship policies. A trend towards a more liberal approach and, inversely, a restrictive backslash. Could you offer the most illustrative examples for both tendencies?
Citizenship laws consist of many provisions that serve different purposes. In contrast with a widespread scholarly opinion in the 1990s, we have not found any general trend towards liberalisation or restriction. With regard to toleration of dual citizenship, for example, the broad trend is clearly towards more toleration by both sending and receiving states. But even here, there is a recent illiberal trend towards discriminating between singular and dual citizens with regard to citizenship deprivation. The UK initiated this policy and now the French government attempts to revise the constitution in order to make it possible to dump French citizens who are terrorist suspects on other states if they carry a second nationality. From a security perspective this is counter-productive, but as symbolic politics it could unfortunately work. With regard to ius soli for second generations of immigrant origin, there was a weak trend towards strengthening inclusion, exemplified by reforms in Portugal in 2006 and Greece in 2010 and now 2015, but in other countries, such as Italy, repeated efforts have failed to far. Concerning ordinary naturalisation, we see a trend towards less administrative discretion, but also a tendency to facilitate access to citizenship for special categories (such as investors or special ethnic groups) while other migrants are increasingly required to pass integration and citizenship tests.
Given the comparative European experience, how could you explain the fact that the Greek citizenship law went through a radical reform which started in 2010 and finally ended in 2015? How could such reforms take place in such grim circumstances for the Greek economy?
I do not know enough about the political process behind this reform, but it seems to fit broadly the hypothesis that left-of-centre governments are more likely to introduce liberal citizenship reforms. In 2010 it was the PASOK government that initiated the introduction of conditional ius soli (if one parent has 5 years of legal residence) and local voting rights for foreign nationals. Both reforms were blocked by the Council of State, whose 2013 final judgment turned the ideology that the Greek nation is based on descent into a constitutional principle. The SYRIZA-led government revived the ius soli reform in a modified form so that now foreign children born in Greece can acquire Greek citizenship by declaration when they enter primary school. This version of ius soli after birth respects the State Council’s view that access to Greek citizenship based on birth in the territory cannot be immediate and automatic, but still achieves the goal of including as citizens second generation children whose parents have settled in Greece. It can be compared to the Swedish law according to which minor children (in the Swedish case also those born abroad) can acquire Swedish citizenship by declaration after 5 years of residence.One can also speculate that for the current Greek government this reform demonstrated its capacity to pursue a culturally progressive political agenda in spite of the economic crisis.
The European Union faces a great challenge in ourdays regarding the management of the mixed flows. But is it really a “refugee crisis” –half a billion Europeans and one million refugees–  or a reception crisis?
Whether the numbers are modest or huge depends on what we compare them to. Those who went northwest on the Balkan route are few compared to the intake of refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, but they are very many compared to past inflows of asylum seekers in Central and Northern European states. The sense of a crisis is also related to the different expectations of what states need to do for refugees. Europe’s asylum procedures and standards of social assistance or employment regulation put much more demand on state resources per asylum seeker. The real heart of the crisis is, however, the lack of solidarity between member states and the absence of an EU authority that can overcome the prisoners’ dilemma games played by them through coordinating the distribution of refugees across destination states and making those pay who are unwilling to take them in. Without the European Central Bank, the Euro could not have been saved in the Greek debt crisis. But there is no equivalent to the ECB in the refugee crisis. Germany had to step in to play this role and it seems to fail. The lesson is that European crises of this dimension cannot be resolved through intergovernmentalism even when Germany is willing to take the lead.
What could be done in the short term? What should be done in the long term? Can the EU “open” or “close” its borders?
In autumn 2015, the Commission and German government could have enhanced the pressure on the unwilling member states by officially starting a renegotiation of the Dublin Agreement. It is obvious that Greece, Italy and all the states on the transit routes to Germany and Sweden have no incentives to register refugees who can then be sent back to them by any of the destination states. A reallocation and resettlement mechanism can only get off the ground if member states know that they can no longer play the Dublin card to enforce a blatantly unjust distribution of refugees and of the burdens of accommodating them. I am afraid that the window of opportunity for such a more radical reform has already closed. What is more likely now is that member states will be ready to strengthen European coordination of external border control, while insisting that each of them decides separately on which and how many refugees they are willing to accept.
Will this lead to a full closure of European borders? Unlike Australia or Canada, Europe will always remain exposed to movements of migrants and refugees that it cannot fully control. Yet policies to deter refugees from heading towards certain destinations can be very effective in reducing the inflows. If there is no prospect of long-term residence and family reunification, many refugees may decide to not invest their savings and risk their lives for the uncertain passage to Europe.
The predictable result will be even larger humanitarian disasters in Syria, its neighbouring states, and in the Mediterranean Sea, i.e. exactly the same kind of events that triggered the initial change of the European response in early 2015. How will European states react when asked the same questions a second time? It is rather likely that they will be driven more by domestic political fears of rising xenophobic parties than by humanitarian concerns.
We say here that Greece is a country facing a “crisis within a crisis” referring to the economic and the refugee issue.  What’s your view on it?
The refugee crisis may have bought the Greek government some more time in terms of the pressure it faces from the creditor states and the “troika”. On the other hand, I imagine that having to imposeharsh austerity policies on its own population did not contribute to the readiness of the Greek government to cooperate with the EU on creating hotspots for refugee registration and reinforcing controls at its shores. The response by the Austrian and other EU governments who called for suspending Greece’s Schengen membership should set all alarm bells ringing. There is an uncanny pattern of repetition. In both crises “kicking out the Greeks” (of the Euro zone and the Schengen zone) does not only harm Greece but the European project itself.

Rainer Bauböck is Professor in Social and Political Theory at the Department of Political and Social Sciences of the European University Institute in Florence. He has coordinated several comparative research projects on citizenship in Europe and is the director of the EUDO Citizenship observatory.

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