Wednesday

22nd May 2019

Internal border controls to end in six months, says EU

  • Avramopoulos says it's time to return to a fully-functioning borderless Schengen area. (Photo: EC - Audiovisual Service)

The EU member states imposing border controls to stop migration flows from Greece will have to remove them before the end of year.

EU migration and home affairs commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said on Tuesday (2 May) that Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and non-EU member state Norway will only be allowed to extend existing controls one last time.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"This is the last prolongation, I repeat it, this is the last prolongation," Avramopoulos told reporters in Brussels.

The controls, first launched in 2015, can no longer be extended under EU rules unless a new reason or threat emerges. Such a process would likely entail a long administrative and technical probe into weaknesses in the external border, similar to the one initially carried out in Greece.

Avramopoulos's statements follows an announcement by Sweden, also on Tuesday, to stop ID controls for people travelling from Denmark.

The current ID checks were due to end on 4 May. They were first introduced in January 2016 to reduce the number of asylum seekers after Sweden saw tens of thousands of refugees arrive every week in the autumn of 2015.

Since then, the number of asylum seekers has dropped to less than 500 a week.

Sweden's interior minister, Anders Ygeman, said there was no longer a need for ID checks, but seemed to suggest greater border controls as a consequence.

"We will make greater use of automatic licence plate recognition and xray vehicle screenings at the borders," he told reporters on Tuesday.

The government wants everyone entering Sweden to be checked this way.

The wider use of surveillance mechanisms seemed in line with EU demands.

Proportionate controls

When asked if Sweden's stronger border controls corresponded with the commission's demands, commissioner Avramopoulos said that controls have to be "proportionate, in line with our recommendations today".

"So, I think it's a very positive development," he added.

Later, he said that Sweden was "a responsible country", acting in the "cooperative spirit that we demand".

Sweden's decision was also welcomed by the Danish prime minister, Lars Loekke Rasmussen, who however failed to mention whether Denmark would scrap its own border checks against Germany.

Austria had also announced plans last week to possibly impose indefinite controls and resort to national measures, if necessary.

In an interview with the German daily Die Welt, Austria's interior minister, Wolfgang Sobotka, said the country wants to know who enters the country.

"In terms of public order and internal security, I simply need to know who is coming to our country," he told the paper.

But an internal report earlier this year from Austria's ministry of the interior, seen by EUobserver, casts a long shadow over Sobotka's comments.

Lack of data

The Austrian report said that it had "no data on the number of crossings and the number of persons controlled" despite the internal border checks already in place under the EU's watch.

An EU official said Sobotka was yet to raise the issue with the EU commission, but that it may surface when the Council of the EU, the institution that represents member states, endorses the latest and final recommendation to extend the controls.

Despite the lack of data, the EU commission in February still recommended for the council to grant extensions for all five countries for another three months until mid-May.

Tuesday's announcement comes amid another EU commission recommendation to impose more police checks along motorways, in an effort to prevent asylum hopefuls from reaching their preferred destinations.

Avramopoulos said the plan also promotes more cross-border police cooperation, such as joint-police patrols in border areas.

He noted that the beefed up border agency Frontex, rebranded the European Border and Coast Guard agency, means external borders of the Schengen area are also better secured, given it has a pool of some 1,500 guards at its disposal.

Tens of thousands have been trapped in Greece following a Western Balkan border closure early last year, forcing many to resort to smugglers.

An estimated 60,000 still remain in Greece, which is sparking fears that they may attempt to venture further north regardless of the barricades and dangers.

EU seeks new rules on internal border checks

EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said EU rules that allow states to impose internal border checks are being reformed, with a proposal set to be announced.

Europol busts global cybercrime gang

A loose network of cyber criminals recruited from an online Russian forum managed to infect thousands of computers in an effort to steal online banking credentials. The gang has been dismantled, with some now on the run.

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

EU justice 'barometer' hindered by data gaps

Some member states continue to impede the European Commission's annual attempt to define the state of Europe's justice system, by not providing data on their national situations.

News in Brief

  1. Poll: Denmark set to double number of liberal MEPs
  2. European brands 'breaking' chemical safety rules
  3. Report: Merkel was lobbied to accept EU top job
  4. May struggling to get Brexit deal passed at fourth vote
  5. German MPs show interest in 'Magnitsky' sanctions
  6. CoE: Rights violations in Hungary 'must be addressed'
  7. EU affairs ministers rubber-stamp new ban on plastics
  8. Private companies campaign to boost turnout in EU poll

Opinion

A fundamental contradiction in EU drug policy

The knock-on affects from a 'war on drugs' in Europe is creating problems in Albania - and as far afield as Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us