Wednesday

1st Feb 2023

EU countries say 'No' to commission powers on border control

  • The commission proposals will be sent to EU member states and MEPs next week, but final approval could take over a year (Photo: Marta Arribas, Madrid, Spain)

Three leading countries have told the European Commission that its bid to take control of the EU's passport-free travel system will not fly.

The interior ministers of Germany, France and Spain in a joint statement to press on Tuesday (10 September) said: "We believe that respecting [this] core area of national sovereignty is very important to the member states. We therefore do not share the European Commission's views on assuming responsibility for making decisions on operational measures in the security field."

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It added: "The decision whether to re-introduce temporary checks at the internal borders is based on an intensive assessment of the national security situation, which can only be carried out by the member states on the basis of the expertise and resources of their security authorities."

The commission will on Friday adopt its final plan for how the so-called Schengen zone - a free-movement agreement between 22 EU countries, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland - should be governed in future.

Its home affairs spokesman, Michele Cercone, declined to comment either on the ministers' communique or the draft proposals.

But last week, he revealed the EU executive wants to make decisions on when border checks can be temporarily re-introduced for special events such as football championships on in reaction to crises such as terrorist attacks.

"We have to move to a European system if we want Schengen to be safeguarded and guaranteed," he said at the time.

The commission launched the Schengen reform process after France unilaterally reintroduced border checks in order to keep out Arab Spring migrants coming from Africa via Italy.

The group of three's letter supported draft provisions to suspend a Schengen member if they become a liability for the rest of the zone, however.

"Strengthening Schengen governance in case a member state is no longer able to comply with its obligations under the Schengen rules is an important and shared concern and a mechanism should be introduced to respond to exceptional circumstances putting the overall functioning of Schengen co-operation at risk," it said.

The measure is reportedly aimed at Greece, which has become the main point of entry for irregular migrants into the EU because of its long land border with Turkey.

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