European Council/free Movement : Eu Braces for Challenging Schengen Reform

European Social Policy, July 7, 2011 | Go to article overview

European Council/free Movement : Eu Braces for Challenging Schengen Reform


The EU's 27 heads of state and government have called on the European Commission to prepare for September a proposal that will create a safeguard mechanism' for the Schengen area of free movement of persons, allowing temporary identity checks at borders to be re-established in the case of a massive influx of migrants to the EU.

Essentially, member states have only stated their political orientations' on the matter, but the fact that the issue was raised during negotiations at the 23-24 June European Council in Brussels points to a difficult road ahead for the reform.

The return to checks at borders will be strictly controlled: the mechanism will only be used "as a last resort," "in exceptional circumstances," in "genuinely critical situations" and will have a "strictly limited scope and length". In the final draft of the Council conclusions, these circumstances are specified: re-establishing controls will only be authorised "when a member state is no longer in a position to respect its obligations regarding the Schengen rules, and regarding the prevention of illegal immigration by third-country nationals".

According to the current Schengen Convention, a state can already re-establish border controls "where necessary for the public order or national security" and for a "limited period". Nonetheless, following the arrival of more than 20,000 Tunisian immigrants in Italy, who claimed the right to a temporary permit to stay' and free circulation within the Schengen area, France said that the convention as it stands was no longer sufficient to cope with such situations. The member state has now been working for several months to convince its European counterparts of the necessity for reform. "France has called for solidarity among all member states to save Schengen [ ] The reform of Schengen is underway, and the principles of the reform correspond point by point to that which was requested by France," French President Nicolas Sarkozy told the press outside the Council. "I am committed to Schengen, and I have pointed out that if we do not reform Schengen, there is a risk that it will disappear. …

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