Wednesday, 4 May 2011

EU considers tightening border controls

Cecilia Malmström
EU governments in the passport-free Schengen zone will be able to reimpose border controls temporarily under new European Commission proposals.

The EU's executive arm made the proposal on Wednesday May 4th as part of a review of the Schengen treaty.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström told reporters in Brussels, "It may also be necessary to foresee the temporary reintroduction of limited internal border controls under very exceptional circumstances."

She stressed that the measure would only be used when "a part of the external borders comes under heavy unexpected pressure." It would mostly apply to countries with external frontiers, however exactly how it would work in reality is not yet clear.

The proposal will be submitted to a special meeting of the EU interior ministers on 12th May and will likely be accepted by EU government leaders at an EU summit on 24th June.

The move reflects concern about the arrival of large numbers of migrants from North Africa in recent months, which has caused tension between Schengen treaty members. Some 25,000 migrants have reached Italy this year.

In early April, Italy granted temporary residence permits to 20,000 Tunisians, allowing them to travel across Europe. Italy's actions angered France, as many of the migrants were expected to move to the country, which already has a large Tunisian population.

France said Italy abused the Schengen pact, while Italy complained that it was not getting enough help from its EU partners. French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi called for a revision of Schengen after France stopped trainings carrying migrants from entering Italy.

The Schengen treaty was signed in 1985 to allow free movement of people in 25 countries across Europe. It includes 22 EU states, and three others: Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. The UK and the Republic of Ireland maintain passport controls.

Sources: Al-Jazeera, BBC News, Bloomberg

For more information, please see the Menas Borders website, here.

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