The European Commission wants to give EU countries the possibility of extending internal border controls for longer than until mid-May. Last week, it was revealed that the EU executive would like to activate a crisis mechanism in the Schengen Codex, allowing Member States to continue border checks within the passport-free travel area. The decision that would enable Austria and Germany to continue their border controls beyond mid-May is expected to be announced tomorrow (4 May) after a meeting of the 28 Commissioners.
Without the green light from the Commission, EU Member States that are currently still performing random checks on the internal Schengen borders would have no legal basis to do so after 12 May. Germany, France, Austria, Denmark and Sweden all raised their concerns to the European Commission that the border situation remains “extremely volatile”, thus asking the EU executive to prolong their right to keep the border controls in place. The commissioners would like to allow the Member States to retain additional security measures on the borders till November this year.
The issue has calmed down a bit since the EU-Turkey deal came into effect in April but it is still too early to evaluate its results. The Commission is for example set to rule that the Greek-Turkish border is an example of the block’s frontier under threat, which qualifies it for exceptional measures despite – what Brussels called – “incredible” efforts by Greece to control the influx of migrants.
A number of the 26-member Schengen zone members have re-introduced border controls since 2015. Germany did so already in mid-September while Austria went even further when it announced that it was considering the construction of a fence at the Brenner Pass to Italy. According to its Interior Minister, Wolfgang Sobotka, this step is a part of the Austrian government’s efforts to safeguard the country against “extreme situations” in which it could be “overrun” by refugees. The plan has been described as a possible “political disaster for Europe” by many of the world’s leaders including UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon.