Sunday

27th May 2018

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

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.

GDPR - a global 'gold standard'?

The new EU privacy rules are touted as a global 'gold standard' - but Mexico's former data commissioner warns some nations are far from ready.

New GDPR enforcer says complaints imminent

The European Data Protection Board is a new EU body tasked with enforcing the EU's privacy laws with powers to impose massive fines. Its head Andrea Jelinek told reporters complaints against companies are expected to be immediate.

Opinion

The dangers of resurgent nationalism in Greece

Virulent nationalism in Greece has been stirred up in the context of austerity and renewed negotiations with Macedonia. Recent attempts by the government to address the inequalities suffered by LGBT persons have also been met with a reactionary backlash.

News in Brief

  1. Italy set to pick eurosceptic finance minister
  2. UK foreign minister fooled by Russian pranksters
  3. Rajoy ally gets 33 years in jail for corruption
  4. Close race as polls open in Irish abortion referendum
  5. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  6. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  7. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  8. UK households hit with Brexit income loss

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman requests more lending transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach