Saturday

28th May 2022

France and Italy acted against 'spirit' of EU border laws

  • Tunisian migrants arriving in Lampedusa were not welcomed in Italy or France (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Both France and Italy acted within the law with measures taken to counter the thousands of Tunisian immigrants coming to the EU earlier this year, but they breached the "spirit" of the EU's freedom of movement agreement, the EU commission has said.

"From a formal point of view steps taken by Italian and French authorities have been in compliance with EU law. However, I regret that the spirit of the Schengen rules has not been fully respected," EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said Monday (25 July), three months after French police were deployed at the Italian border to send Tunisians back to Italy.

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

Thousands of Tunisians arrived on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa in the first months of this year, profiting from lax coastal surveillance after the fall of dictator Ben Ali. With many of them being French-speakers, a natural destination was France. Their passage was made easier by the Italian authorities who did not keep them in detention centres and granted them temporary residence permits.

In reaction, France reinforced its 'spot checks' at the border, with riot police boarding trains and checking the papers of the persons on board.

"Our analysis confirms that police checks carried out by French authorities remained within the limits compatible with the Schengen Borders Code. On the basis of the information received on the checks, it cannot be concluded that France would have carried out systematic checks in the internal border zone with Italy during the past months," the commissioner said.

Rome's measure were not in breach with EU law either, but "there is scope for clarifying the approach at EU level," the commissioner said.

The EU commission wants to draft guidelines on how and when these permits can be issued - a prerogative of national governments.

"In fact, all this clearly demonstrates the need to address the Schengen governance in a comprehensive and coordinated way. To increase trust among EU citizens and member states, the Schengen area also needs a stronger evaluation and monitoring system," the commissioner added.

But her push to have the EU commission involved in the evaluation of how member states guard their borders - currently an assessment carried out by experts sent from national capitals - has little support among governments.

The commission is going to go ahead and publish proposals on border monitoring in September anyway. They will come when interior ministers are due to discuss when Bulgaria and Romania can enter the EU's borderless Schengen zone. A decision was delayed in June at the insistence of France and the Netherlands, citing corruption concerns.

Orbán's new state of emergency under fire

Hungary's premier Viktor Orbán declared a state of emergency due to the war in neighbouring Ukraine hours after pushing a constitutional amendment through parliament, where two-thirds of MPs are controlled by his Fidesz party, allowing his government special powers.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us