Parliament strongly opposes the reintroduction of border controls within the Schengen area. The influx of migrants and asylum seekers cannot justify them, say MEPs in a resolution on the planned changes to Schengen rules.
The Schengen system has recently come under pressure, with some Member States considering the reintroduction of national border controls in the face of the sudden influx of migrants from North Africa. On 24 June, the European Council asked the Commission to present a proposal in September on a safeguard mechanism to deal with "exceptional circumstances" of this kind.
In the resolution, adopted on Thursday by a large majority, Parliament is critical of moves by several Member States to reintroduce border controls. It underlines its "firm opposition to any new Schengen mechanism with objectives other than those of enhancing freedom of movement and reinforcing EU governance of the Schengen area".
The current Schengen Borders Code provides for the possibility of reintroducing internal border controls "only where there is a serious threat to public policy or internal security", points out the resolution.
The Commission is asked to present an initiative aimed at defining the "strict application" of the current rules by the Member States. MEPs insist that any new additional exemptions, such as new grounds for reintroducing border controls, "would definitely not reinforce the Schengen system".
The recent problems with Schengen, argue MEPs, "are rooted in a reluctance to implement common European policies in other fields", most crucially a common European asylum and migration system. They call for progress to be made in these areas (the deadline for establishing a common European asylum system has been set for 2012).
An EU-based Schengen evaluation mechanism needed
Under the current system, any decision to reintroduce border controls is taken unilaterally by Member States. MEPs want the new Schengen evaluation mechanism to be made into an EU system.
"The new Schengen evaluation system should be more Community-oriented, based on a European approach and with the involvement of the EU institutions, as opposed to a purely intergovernmental one", said Carlos Coelho (EPP, PT, the EP rapporteur on the mechanism.
The new Schengen evaluation mechanism currently being discussed within Parliament will be part of the answer for these problems, insofar as it "ensures effective monitoring of any attempt to introduce illegal internal border controls and reinforces mutual trust". MEPs also mention that the effectiveness of the evaluation mechanism lies in the possibility of sanctions in the event that deficiencies persist and jeopardise the overall security of the Schengen area.
The new Schengen evaluation system will also make it possible to request and obtain support for Member States in the event of exceptional pressure on the EU’s external borders.
The creation of the Schengen area defined a common external border, "which the EU has a joint responsibility to manage" under the Treaties, MEPs insist. Nevertheless, the EU "has not yet fully complied with this requirement".
The EP firmly stresses the need for greater solidarity towards those Member States in order to help them deal with extraordinary situations of this nature.