The Battle of Schengen

The tensions within the EU institutions and with member states over the governance of the Schenghen Area is spiralling. The European Parliament has recently added its voice to the conversation arguing for the control over the implementation of the rules on the Schengen area to be kept at the EU level. This is a response to pressure from EU member states that have increasingly been pushing proposals that reclaim powers of control over internal borders.  The array of cases infringing the Schengen rules, with EU citizens facing controls which shouldn’t exist at internal borders – with Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, France, etc. pose a challange to freedom of movement, a fundamental right of European citizens and one of the main pillars of the EU.

“The European Parliament doesn’t accept that the rules on the Schengen area, established in the Amsterdam Treaty and further consolidated within the Lisbon Treaty, are being infringed by Member States. Schengen is a common concern, therefore, we need to guarantee that the Schengen governance is carried out at EU level. The freedom of movement and the rights of citizens must be preserved. The European Institutions should play an active role in maintaining vigilance over the Schengen functioning, and be able to respond to any challenges that might occur” (Carlos Coelho MEP, European Parliament Rapporteur on the Schengen dossier)

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Is this the end of Schengen? Germany, Austria and Finland want to restore border controls

Germany, Austria and Finland are considering the unilateral restoration of border controls for passengers and vectors coming from Greece. In statements made by the Austrian and German Interior Ministers at the meeting of the Council of Interior Ministers of 8 March 2012, the two ministers expressed their concerns about Greece’s inability to effectively control flows of illegal immigrants at its land borders with Turkey. In a written question to the EU Commission, the Greek MEP Georgios Papanikolaou asked for the EC Commission’s view. Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs responds (E-002940/2012):

The Commission shares the concerns about the flow of irregular migrants into Greece, in particular through the external border withTurkey and has put in place a comprehensive strategy to tackle this problem, elements of which are of an operational nature involving the FRONTEX agency […]  At the same time, the Commission continues to encourage the Turkish authorities to sign the readmission agreement it has negotiated with the European Union, fully implementing its existing readmission obligations to better prevent irregular migration generally and to cooperate with EUROPOL and FRONTEX in this endeavour.

 As regards the possible reintroduction of internal border controls between Member States inside the Schengen area, the Commission […] recalls that this is only possible – as an exceptional and temporary measure by a Member State – when it is considered necessary on account of a serious threat to public policy or internal security.