EU executive to stop countries bringing back border controls

The free travel regime, known as the Schengen system- was questioned earlier this year when Silvio Berlusconi and Nicolas Sarkozy, feuded over a small influx of immigrants from Tunisia. France reintroduced border controls to stop the immigrants arriving from Italy. Denmark then unilaterally decided to re-erect border and customs checks on its borders with Germany and Sweden. Under the reformed law being proposed by the commissioner for home affairs, Cecilia Malmström, Italy, France, and Denmark would be unable to act without approval from the commission.

A spokesperson for the commissioner said that Schengen “is one of the most important achievements and the commission is determined to defend it. At the moment an area of common interest is governed by individual decisions. This has to be changed.” Under Malmström\’s proposals, to be unveiled within a fortnight, the commission in Brussels would have the last word and an effective veto over the decisions of EU national governments. The draft law would also give the European parliament more of a say in how Schengen operates.

Viewed as the EU\’s signature achievements, Schengen enables some 400 million Europeans to travel without passports from the Turkish border to the Arctic circle and from Portugal to Russia\’s frontier. Participating countries will be allowed to briefly reintroduce border controls in the event of ‘foreseeable’ or ‘unforeseeable’ events. Foreseeable scenarios include national security grounds, such as hosting major international summits or sports events. In the unforeseeable scenario, for example a major terrorist attack or an epidemic, a country could act unilaterally to re-erect border controls, but only for five days. After that it would need the permission of the commission and the EU-qualified majority.

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