Monday

27th Jun 2022

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

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.

Opinion

Romania — latest EU hotspot in backlash against LGBT rights

Romania isn't the only country portraying lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people as a threat to children. From Poland and Hungary in EU, to reactionary movements around the world are prohibiting portrayals of LGBT people and families in schools.

News in Brief

  1. Possible terror attack halts gay pride in Norway
  2. Belgian PM: Gas shortage requires joint response
  3. Bulgarian MPs set conditions for lifting enlargement veto
  4. Latvia: We need a brigade-size Nato force to 'feel safe'
  5. Deal reached on controversial energy treaty reform
  6. EU carbon emissions from energy up 6% in 2021
  7. Germany step closer to gas rationing
  8. Albania: EU 'disgrace' at lack of enlargement progress

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  2. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  4. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBHow price increases affect construction workers
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic think tank examines influence of tech giants

Latest News

  1. EU summit's uncertainty in the face of economic war
  2. Next winter's gas looms large at EU summer summit
  3. Ukraine becomes EU candidate after 120 days of war
  4. How to enhance EU cybersecurity
  5. Competing options for EU enlargement
  6. MEPs demand to exit 'ecocide treaty' after reforms 'fail'
  7. Finland optimistic in Turkey talks over Nato
  8. Hungary's global-tax veto seen as 'blackmail'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us