Proposed Evros fence will not be funded by European Union; Greek government continues with construction plans
(19 January 2012)
At the close of 2011, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström made clear that the European Union will not be funding the proposed fence along the 12.5 kilometre section of the Evros River on the Greek-Turkish border. At the beginning of 2011, the Greek government initially proposed a 206 kilometer long wall to span the length of the territorial border with Turkey. Following international condemnation of the plan, this was almost immediately reduced to the 12 kilometre section of border where the Evros crosses in to Turkey. This was largely in response to an influx of migrants crossing at this point in to Greece during the second half of 2010, and recognition by the government that its asylum system had collapsed, leaving many claimants lingering in deplorable conditions within detention centres, and several EU Member States refusing to return asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin II agreement.
At the close of 2010, Frontex, responsible for the management of the external borders of the EU, sent its first ever territorial deployment of a Rapid Border Intervention Team (RABIT) to the Greek-Turkish border in response to a request from Greece for additional European solidarity in managing the issue. The mission lasted four months, but was then immediately followed by the permanent Frontex Joint Operation Poseidon mission. The director of Frontex has stated recently however that due to Greece’s inability to create new detention centres along its eastern border, Member States participating in sending agents and equipment for the Poseidon mission have been reluctant to continue their involvement. Frontex has reported a significant decline in crossings since the RABITs were deployed in December 2010, however it is unclear if this is a direct response to the mission, or if it was a shorter-term seasonal decline.
The proposed fence, which will actually consist of two parallel fences topped with concertina wire, was expected to take five months to complete, according to Deputy Citizens’ Protection Minister Manolis Othonas, who visited the site in November 2011. The European Union believes the fence will not be an effective deterrent to those seeking to enter the EU, or to human smuggling networks, as they would simply shift to another section of the border with Turkey, or enter through another EU Member State.
According to Greek media, on 7 December 2011 the Court of Audit approved the Greek government’s plans for the fence, using money from a public investment program to fund its construction. It has been reported that Greece had requested 4.9 million euros to fund construction of the fence, however Malmström stated that the EU would consider providing other funding for projects that would be more likely to deter migration into the EU. It was recently reported by Greek media on 19 January that the Greek government has now signed a contract for the construction of the fence, though no more details have been given. The Citizens' Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis was quoted as saying “This is the best answer to all those who argued that the project would never begin.”
Sources:'Fence on Greek-Turkish border to be ready in five months', Ekathirmerini, 19 January 2011; ‘Evros fence gets ok from Court of Audit’, Ekathimerini, 7 December 2011; ‘EU will not fund Evros fence’, Ekathimerini, 6 December 2011; ‘Greece’s planned border fence is an ‘act of despair’’, Spiegel, 6 January 2011