Keep Schengen to Preserve Our Union
Reacting to recent speculations about a possible exclusion of Greece from the Schengen area, PES President Sergei Stanishev said: "Over 850,000 refugees crossed the sea to reach Greece in the last year, landing on handful of small islands. The task of managing the number of people arriving is gigantic, particularly across a maritime border. No one country can be expected to manage these numbers on its own, and can certainly not be called to engage in illegally pushing refugees back.
I applaud the efforts of the local population, civil society, and the efforts of the coastguard in Greece. Between them they have saved thousands of lives and their efforts must be recognised.
At the same time, it is also clear that the Greek government had not fulfilled all of its obligations. There is no question that Greece needs to comply with its Schengen responsibilities and complete the hotspots, just as there is no question that all the other Member States need to fulfil their obligation and relocate refugees in a fair manner. In the same way, all parties to the agreement recently reached with Turkey need to implement it without delay. Delays are inadmissible while we are faced with such a dramatic situation.
But the idea that the solution to this crisis is to exclude a country from Schengen and try to trap the refugees in a corner of Europe is not only immoral, it is also deeply anti-European. Solidarity is not an a-la-carte menu from which we can pick and choose. The only solution that is viable and fair for all is to cooperate and coordinate a European response. This means coordinating in terms of border controls, fair burden sharing, cooperating with countries outside Europe, and efforts to bring stability to the Middle East. The solution is certainly not to start unravelling the European Union as only by working together can we resolve this grave situation.
I urge all Europeans to reject firmly this discussion about the possibility of excluding any country from Schengen.”