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25th May 2019

MEPs boycott negotiations with member states in Schengen row

  • The decision to suspend negotiations on justice and home affairs issues came 27 years after the Schengen agreement was signed on 14 June 1985 (Photo: European Commission)

The European Parliament decided on Thursday (14 June) to boycott negotiations with member states on five home affairs legislative packages until a “satisfactory outcome” on how rules governing the EU borderless area are achieved.

“The conference of presidents has decided not to take any further action, not to negotiate with Council until an agreement has been reached with Council on the matter of Schengen,” said European Parliament chief Martin Schulz in Strasbourg.

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EU ministers had on 7 June decided to exclude parliament from having a say on how rules governing the Union's passport-free zone are applied.

Schulz called the decision a “slap in the face of parliamentary democracy.”

Member states want EU border law monitoring to remain a peer-to-peer exercise. Euro deputies, along with the European Commission, had insisted monitoring move to the EU-level. But the member states' decision would entitle the parliament to observer status only.

“It is without precedent that in the middle of the legislative process, one co-legislative chamber excludes the other,” said Schulz.

Green group leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit said the Parliament would “not take the Council's dirty, anti-democratic tricks on Schengen lying down”.

The Parliament has decided to remove from its July plenary session discussions and votes on Schengen governance.

Discussions scheduled on 21 June in the Parliament’s civil liberties committee on the amendment of the Schengen border code and the convention implementing the Schengen agreement have also been suspended.

It also suspended negotiations scheduled in July on judicial cooperation in criminal matters such as combating attacks against information systems.

Additionally, it is stopping talks on the European investigation order, the 2013 budget on internal security, and the EU passenger name records draft report.

None, say the Parliament, will be resolved until member states reverse their unanimous decision on Schengen.

Schulz spokesperson told EUobserver he could not specify what would happen if governments refuse to budge on their earlier decision. “We are in the start of negotiations,” he said.

For its part, the Danish EU presidency said it regrets the Parliament’s decision but will to continue to work with the institution.

So far member states have been relatively sanguine about parliament's stance.

“I hope the whole discussion will calm down. We don't want to take away any rights from MEPs, so I am sure we'll find a good dialogue,” German interior minister Hans Peter Friedrich told journalists in Berlin.

But he noted the majority of legal experts in the parliament agree with member states' decision to remove MEPs' co-decision power.

A source close to the council told EUobserver said it is unlikely member states will reverse their decision.

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