Internal border checks within the Schengen area should be limited to a maximum of one year, instead of the current two-year period, say MEPs.
The Schengen Borders Code, currently under revision, allows member states to carry out temporary checks at internal borders within the Schengen area, in the event of a serious threat to public order or to internal security.
In a plenary vote on Thursday establishing Parliament’s position for negotiating with EU ministers, MEPs agreed that:
the initial period for border checks should be limited to two months, instead of the current six-month period, and
border checks couldn’t be extended beyond one year, halving the current maximum limit of two years.
MEPs highlighted that as the free movement of persons is affected by temporary border checks, these should only be used in exceptional circumstances and as a measure of last resort.
Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway currently have internal border checks in place due to the exceptional circumstances resulting from the migratory crisis that started in 2015. In addition, France has internal border checks in place because of a persistent terrorist threat.
New safeguards for extensions
Schengen countries should provide a detailed risk assessment if temporary border checks are extended beyond the initial two months. Furthermore, any subsequent extension of border checks beyond six months would require the Commission to state whether the prolongation follows the legal requirements or not and should be authorised by the EU Council of Ministers. MEPs also want the Parliament to be more informed and involved in the process.
“Schengen is one of the EU’s greatest achievements. However, it has been put at serious risk due to ongoing illegal controls at internal borders by six states for more than three years, despite a two-year maximum period. This shows how ambiguous the current rules are and how states misuse and misinterpret them. If we want to save Schengen, we need to put a stop to this and establish clear rules,” said Rapporteur Tanja Fajon (S&D, SI).
The text was adopted by 319 votes to 241, with 78 abstentions. The talks with EU ministers can start now as the Council has already agreed on its position in June.