MEPs call for return to borderless Schengen area and reform of Border Code

EP backs the full integration on Bulgaria, Romania into Schengen, Croatia also fulfils accession criteria

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MEPs call for the restoration of free movement within the Schengen area, which has been disrupted by border controls, most recently because of the Covid-19 crisis. The European Parliament argues that member states should swiftly restore free movement in the Schengen area in its newly adopted Schengen report (505 votes in favour, 134 against and 54 abstentions), EP Press service reported on Thursday.

Noting that some internal border controls have been in place since 2015, MEPs say that such checks no longer fill the criteria of proportionality and necessity, and are therefore unlawful. Where necessary, the Commission should also initiate infringement procedures.

MEPs are concerned by reports of push-backs by Frontex on the Schengen external borders and demand more transparency about its activities, notably those taking place at sea, and fulfilment of its reporting obligations. The Parliament emphasizes that helping people in distress at sea is a legal obligation and demands that the border agency hires the fundamental rights monitors it needs according to its Regulation.

The report also demands full integration of Bulgaria and Romania into the free-movement zone, noting that both countries have fulfilled the requirements for joining Schengen.

Croatia has also fulfilled the requirements, as the Commission noted during its visit to the country in November 2020. However, MEPs are concerned about reports of human rights abuses at Croatia’s borders and hope that Croatia ensures adequate staffing levels, training and surveillance in its border operations. Croatia has already introduced an independent mechanism for monitoring police actions towards displaced persons, which the MEPs find a positive development.

Finally, MEPs welcome the development of IT systems (such as the Visa Information System and the Entry-Exit System) in the areas of border and visa management, and ask that these projects be completed without delays. Looking ahead, the Parliament underlines that a reform of the Schengen Borders Code is necessary to address the current state of the border-free travel area. While border controls remain a prerogative of the member states, new safeguard mechanisms could ensure the withdrawal of controls when they are no longer a proportionate response.

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