Sunday

22nd Oct 2017

Hawkish step on EU borders outrages MEPs

  • Passport control - coming back to a border near you? (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

EU countries have given themselves more freedom to block passport-free travel, causing outrage among MEPs.

Member states can close their borders for up to 30 days if there is a serious threat to internal security (such as major sporting events), up to 10 days in urgent cases (terrorist attacks) and up to six months if persistent problems exist at external borders.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Under the old system, in place since 2006, member states would be allowed to impose border controls in urgent cases for only up to five days according to the Commission's proposal.

Additionally, if a member state fails to control its external EU border, then its peers may on the basis of a European Commission proposal, recommend for neighbours to reintroduce border controls as a fall-back.

The ministers also excluded the European Parliament from co-decision on issues dealing with external borders, giving it observer status only. Schengen will therefore effectively remain an inter-governmental treaty based on peer assessment.

An EU source told EUobserver that smaller member states, including Belgium and Romania, defended the parliament's right to deliberate on Schengen.

But pressure from France, Germany and the Netherlands "forced their hand" and everybody voted against the MEPs in the end.

"This is essential for the trust of our citizens and to ensure that we keep our area of free movement vibrant and viable," said Dutch interior minister Gerd Leers, referring to the Schengen treaty which governs the system.

The changes have riled MEPs across most of the political spectrum.

Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament, said it "disrespects parliament's powers and is a step in the wrong direction on Schengen."

The centre-right EPP group said it wants the European Court of Justice to examine its legality. Hannes Swoboda, the Austrian head of the centre-left S&D group called it "hypocrisy ... They [EU capitals] say they want more Union and yet they do less Union." Liberals called it an act of "war" against MEPs.

The commission is also unhappy after its proposal on borders was rejected.

It had suggested that member states could unilaterally re-impose border checks but only for up to five days in certain cases. Anything over five days would have required an EU-level decision.

"We are disappointed with the decision. We need an EU-based mechanism," said EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.

A spokesman for the EU Council, the member states' secreteriat in Brussels, told this website: "The [current] evaluation mechanism [for suspending Schengen] was giving the commission too much power."

The push-back on border freedoms comes after a series of countries - Denmark, France, Italy and the Netherlands - took unilateral steps against irregular migrants in recent months.

Last year, tens of thousands of people fleeing the uprising throughout North Africa landed in Italy and sought asylum and refuge. Others decided to leave Italy, heading to France which imposed border control checks to stem the flow.

Large irregular migrants flows into Greece from the Turkish border has also raised concern. Frontex, the EU border agency, detected 55,000 attempted crossings into Greece in 2011 alone.

It also comes amid the rise of far-right parties in several EU national assemblies.

Greece struggling to manage asylum seekers

Nearly 30,000 irregular border crossings were detected on Europe’s external borders in the last three months of 2011, the European Commission said on Wednesday.

EU border chief: 23,000 lives saved last year

"Seventy-two people are dying in front of me," boat survivor Abu Kurke told EUobserver on Thursday, as the EU border agency looks to new human rights safeguards.

EU gives thumbs up to US data pact

Commission gives 'thumbs-up' to controversial Privacy Shield deal with US on data sharing after a year's operation - but notes room for improvement.

News in Brief

  1. Rajoy to trigger Article 155 on Saturday in Catalan crisis
  2. EU conducts unannounced inspection of German car firm
  3. Lithuania calls for new EU energy laws
  4. EU leaders aim for December for defence cooperation
  5. Juncker says hands tied on Russia pipeline
  6. Czechs set to elect billionaire Andrej Babis
  7. Italian regions hold referendums on more autonomy
  8. EU leaders refuse to mediate Catalonia conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Jinping Proposes Stronger Global Security Governance at Interpol Assembly
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  3. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  4. European Jewish CongressBulgaria Applauded for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  6. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  10. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  11. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  12. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!

Latest News

  1. The mysterious German behind Orban's Russian deals
  2. Mogherini urged to do more on Russian propaganda
  3. Turkey funding cuts signal EU mood shift
  4. Posted workers top EU agenda This Week
  5. Leaders lobby to host EU agencies at summit's margins
  6. Legal tweak could extend EU control on Russia pipeline
  7. Ukraine language law does not harm minorities
  8. EU begins preparations for Brexit trade talks