Awash with scores of thousands of refugees and migrants and the edge of the European Union, Greece has reportedly asked for its temporary exemption from border checks to be continued.
The newspaper Kathimerini said the request, the second in the last four months, was sent to the European Commission, whose migration agency is headed by a Greek political veteran from New Democracy, Dimitris Avramopoulos.
The document was said to ask the European border agency Frontex and EU member states, the Greek Police (ELAS) for an 18-month suspension of the obligation to implement new and stricter border checks – in line with amendments in March to the Schengen Border Codes, which came into effect in April.
Greek authorities are citing infrastructure shortcomings and increased traffic at 12 airports across the country, including Athens International Airport.
ELAS is also also asking for a suspension of the new Schengen rules at the country’s land borders at the checkpoints of Evzones, on the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as well as Promachonas and Nymphaia bordering Bulgaria.
According to ELAS, these checkpoints deal with large numbers of travelers and the implementation of the new rules could have serious consequences on traffic, especially during the summer months.
Police said they will continue “targeted” checks of individuals suspected of people trafficking or terrorism, adding that other countries have also requested similar suspensions to the new rules but didn’t say how they would be singled out if the border check rules are relaxed.
Greece started to implement the new rules on April 7, but just two days later, asked and received a six-month suspension due to serious bottlenecks, mainly at Athens International Airport as the tourist season was set to move into full gear.