EU mulls two-year Schengen suspension over migrant crisis
BRUSSELS – Agence France-Presse
AP photoThe European Commission said Jan. 26 that it may eventually allow member states of the passport-free Schengen zone to reintroduce border checks for up to two years to cope with the migration crisis.
At a meeting in Amsterdam on Jan. 25 EU interior ministers had asked the Commission - the executive arm of the 28-nation European Union - about the possibility of extending the checks.
“We want to be prepared for all eventualities but we are not at the activation stage yet,” Natasha Bertaud, the Commission’s spokeswoman on migration, told reporters in Brussels.
“If the situation does not change and there could indeed be justifications under public order and security reasons to maintain internal controls at internal Schengen borders,” Bertaud added.
“We want to be prepared so we are pursuing the options that could be available to us under article 26 if and when we need to activate them.”
Article 26 of the Schengen code allows members of the 26-country zone, which includes most European Union countries, to reintroduce internal border controls for a maximum of up to two years under exceptional circumstances.
In the last few months, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and non-EU member Norway have all introduced temporary controls over the migrant crisis, but with a limit of six months.
The member states are required to inform the commission, which reviews whether they meet the criteria for reintroducing controls.
“We know the migratory flows are not going to be subsiding soon and as the weather changes are even likely to increase again,” Bertaud said.
The introduction of the temporary controls has raised fears that the Schengen zone - a symbol of European unity, freedom and prosperity - could collapse.
But Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said: “We are saving Schengen by applying Schengen.”