European Union envoys agreed a new set of demands for Greece to fix its handling of irregular migrants on Wednesday, moving forward a process that could see frontier checks in Europe's passport-free Schengen zone extended for up to two years.
EU diplomatic sources said a meeting of ambassadors from the 28 member states approved a second set of recommendations to Greece to end serious deficiencies in its control of its part of the Schengen area external border within three months.
Should it fail to implement all the measures, which few expect Athens to be able to do, an unprecedented measure under the Schengen treaty would allow states inside the zone to impose checks on their own borders – as some including Germany have already done in response to movements of migrants from Greece.
Some derogations from the treaty already granted expire in May.
The new procedure is intended to trigger a longer-term possibility of reimposing border checks for up to two years.
The three-month countdown is likely to begin on Friday when diplomats expect EU member state governments formally to endorse the envoys' decision.