EU could order return of refugee crisis funding


TAGS: Migration, EU

European officials have indicated that Greece may be obliged to return more than 500 million euros in funding disbursed by the European Union to help authorities tackle the refugee crisis due to the slow pace at which those funds are being absorbed, Kathimerini understands.

It is not the first time that Brussels has urged Athens to accelerate the absorption of funds and the processing of asylum claims. But the latest warning, a European Commission official told Kathimerini, comes amid a climate of increasing frustration with the Greek government.

“There is an increasing sense of a country that cannot bring about results either in the refugee crisis or in the economy,” the official said.

There is also a growing frustration with the slow pace of the Greek asylum service, with applications being processed at a snail’s pace, European officials say.

Sources said Athens has been informed about the danger of 509 million euros being revoked and that Commission officials are on hand to help the government overcome the current obstacles.

Athens has received more than 1 billion euros in EU funding for tackling the refugee crisis over the past year. The bulk of this money has gone into government coffers with some being given directly to nongovernmental organizations working with refugees in Greece.

Meanwhile, other EU member-states such as Bulgaria are also pressing Brussels for funding to deal with the refugee crisis.

On Thursday, officials are to inaugurate a new European Border and Coast Guard in a ceremony to be held at the Kapetan Andreevo border crossing between Turkey and Bulgaria.

The force, which is to comprise 1,500 officers from 19 EU countries including Greece, will be a rapid-reaction unit and be tasked with guarding the EU’s external border. The force will eventually replace Frontex, the EU’s existing border monitoring force.

Although migration flows via Greece have slowed since the EU and Turkey signed a deal in March to curb people smuggling across the Aegean, there has been a slight increase in arrivals following a failed coup in Turkey in July.

On Tuesday morning, government figures showed that 280 migrants reached the islands of the eastern Aegean in the previous 24 hours, including 167 on Chios.