23rd Oct 2016

EU reluctant to extend Schengen border checks

  • 'Our political position is very clear,' says EU migration commissioner Avramopoulos (Photo: European Union)

The EU commission has no appetite to allow continued internal border checks in Austria, Denmark, and Germany.

All three member states want to continue the controls, despite a mid-November deadline to lift them.

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Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU commissioner for migration, told reporters on Thursday (13 October) that they'll assess the requests once received, but warned against prolonged checks.

"We are not going to have for long periods the reintroduction of border controls and all member states are aware of that," he said in Luxembourg following a meeting of interior ministers.

"Our political position is very clear, we have to go back to Schengen and all member states must understand that.”

But Austria's interior minister Wolfgang Sobotka said the extensions are likely necessary.

"I think it will probably be necessary to have an extension or we have to think of other steps," he said.

Germany's interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, made similar remarks and Denmark's prime minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen in September already announced plans to continue the internal border checks.

Such demands will likely clash with broader EU commission plans to remove all internal checks throughout the passport-free Schengen zone, which covers 23 EU states and Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland, before the end of year.

Austria, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Sweden had imposed the controls in an effort to slow the movement of migrants and refugees entering through Greece last year.

Both Austria and Germany launched the controls in mid-May followed by Denmark in June.

Those checks are allowed to remain in place for six months but only as a response to "a serious threat and to safeguard public policy and internal security."

The same six-month checks can continue for up to two years.

Germany begun the checks along its Austria border, Austria then did the same along Slovenia and Hungary, Denmark followed at its German border.

Slovakia's interior minister Robert Kalinak, speaking on the behalf of the EU presidency, said security, not politics, would decide on whether to continue the internal border controls.

The launch of the new European border and coast guard agency is likely to factor into the EU commission's decision-making when assessing the requests.

The extension demands also coincides with an unannounced visit from the EU commission in Austria this week to verify if they properly follow EU border rules.

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