Sunday

17th Feb 2019

Danish presidency in firing line over Schengen decision

  • “Since the evening of June 7, the Danish Presidency is no longer a credible interlocutor,” said French centre-right MEP Joseph Daul (Photo: afagen)

Furious members of the European Parliament have threatened to cut relations with the Danish EU presidency following a decision by member states to exclude parliament from having a say on how rules in the Union's borderless area are applied.

“Since the evening of June 7, the Danish Presidency is no longer a credible interlocutor,” said French centre-right MEP Joseph Daul, who chairs the parliament’s largest group the EPP, on Tuesday (12 June).

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“From now to June 30 at midnight, we shall address ourselves exclusively either to the European Council or informally to the next Presidency of the Republic of Cyprus,” said Daul.

Member states on 7 June rejected a European Commission proposal that would have lifted evaluation of the Schengen area from the current peer-to-peer review up to EU-level supervision.

The commission package, tabled in September, followed the large influx of migrants and refugees from the Arab Spring earlier last year. The migrant numbers sparked debates on how and under what conditions member states can impose internal border control checks.

The Commission was pushing for greater oversight into how Schengen would be evaluated. But member states resisted saying evaluation should remain in their hands.

They also argued that a reduction in the Commission’ oversight should automatically lead to parliament being granted just observer status.

Morten Boedskov, the Danish minister for justice, told Parliament that the decision was purely legal and had no anterior political motives. “There was no other possible decision in the Council,” he said.

He pointed out that the regulation on Schengen border codes, which governs the movement of people across borders, would still require Parliament’s decision-making input.

As for its evaluation, Boedskov promised that member states would consider the views of MEPs to the “fullest extent possible”.

But MEPs were not to be mollified. They believe it is a calculated attempt to weaken EU institutions.

“This is the saddest day in your whole Council presidency,” said Rebecca Harms, a German MEP and Green group chief.

Hannes Swoboda, the Austrian head of the centre-left S&D group, accused the Danish EU presidency of “going down a dangerous path”.

Liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt called the decision a "disgrace." He and others want to challenge the decision before the European Court of Justice.

Verhofstadt also said the Parliament should suspend relations with the Danish EU presidency but specified in matters concerning justice and home affairs.

The Commission, for its part, also protested. “The peer-to-peer review has proven to be quite useless,” said EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.

“It is not just about a legal proposal, it is about political ambition,” added the commissioner. “We are clearly disappointed about the Council’s decision.”

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