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Strengthening the Schengen area

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Strengthening the Schengen area

The objectives of the European strategy for strengthening the Schengen area are to improve the application of common rules and to better deal with exceptional threats at external borders.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 16 September 2011, Schengen governance - strengthening the area without internal border control (COM(2011) 561 final - Not published in the Official Journal).

SUMMARY

The so-called Arab Spring revolutions in 2011 led to a significant influx of immigrants into some European Union (EU) Member States. These events highlighted the need to strengthen the application of the Schengen area’s common rules and to regulate the reintroduction of controls at internal borders in exceptional circumstances, especially when the overall functioning of the Schengen area is put in danger.

In 2011, the Commission published a communication and two legislative proposals to address this. The latter were eventually adopted in October 2013.

Better evaluating the application of Schengen area rules

The free movement of citizens within the Schengen area relies on mutual trust whereby each participating country is ready and able to apply the entire body of common rules on controls of external borders, visas, police and judicial cooperation, measures concerning the Schengen Information System, etc. (the Schengen acquis).

To achieve this, it has become essential firstly to strengthen the evaluation mechanism designed to control the application of the Schengen acquis by EU Member States and secondly to ensure there is appropriate monitoring and control of the recommendations set out in the evaluation reports, notably when a failure or shortcoming is identified. The Commission is responsible for carrying out this control and monitoring work.

The system for this was introduced through Regulation (EU) No 1053/2013 on establishing an evaluation and monitoring mechanism. EU Member States and the Commission are jointly responsible for implementing the mechanism, even though the Commission plays a coordination role.

Temporary reintroduction of controls at internal borders

The Schengen Borders Code already provides the option, for an EU Member State, to temporarily reintroduce controls at its internal borders in the event of a serious threat to public order and internal security (e.g. terrorist threats or threats linked to organised crime).

Regulation (EU) No 1051/2013 extends this option to cases of serious deficiencies related to controlling external borders and identified in the framework of Regulation (EU) No 1053/2013. However, in this case, the initiative for reintroduction falls to the Commission and the Council.

  • When such deficiencies are identified in an evaluation report, the Commission can make a recommendation to the country evaluated to take certain measures, such as deploying European border guard teams. As a last resort, it can also initiate the procedure described below.
  • When the overall functioning of the Schengen area is put in danger due to the serious and ongoing deficiencies of external border controls, the Council, following a proposal from the Commission, can make a recommendation to one or more EU Member States to temporarily reintroduce internal border controls.

RELATED ACTS

Council Regulation (EU) No 1053/2013 of 7 October 2013 establishing an evaluation and monitoring mechanism to verify the application of the Schengenacquisand repealing the Decision of the Executive Committee of 16 September 1998 setting up a Standing Committee on the evaluation and implementation of Schengen (Official Journal L 295 of 6 November 2013).

Regulation (EU) No 1051/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2013 amending Regulation (EC) No 562/2006 in order to provide for common rules on the temporary reintroduction of border control at internal borders in exceptional circumstances (Official Journal L 295 of 6 November 2013).

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council: Fifth biannual report on the functioning of the Schengen area 1 November 2013-30 April 2014 (Not published in the Official Journal). COM(2014) 292 final -Not published in the Official Journal).

Following the communication of 16 September 2011, the Commission presents bimonthly reports to the European Parliament and the Council on the functioning of the Schengen area. In its latest report, it notably indicates that the preparations for implementation of the new evaluation mechanism are under way and that the first evaluations under the new mechanism are expected to be conducted from January 2015 onwards.

Last updated: 28.05.2014

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