New plan will make Schengen area “stronger outwards to be freer inwards”

Enlargement of this space with Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia is a priority, the EC says

Photo: EU Margaritis Schinas and Ylva Johansson.

For making the largest free travel area in the world more robust, the EU executive put in a new Strategy towards a fully functioning and resilient Schengen area. Last years this ‘jewel in the Europe’s crown’ was challenged in many ways, either due to the introduction of strict sanitary measures to limit the spread of coronavirus in recent times or earlier due to the huge migration flows or other threats directly related to security.

The new plan will ensure effective management of the EU's external borders, through the ongoing roll out of the European Border and Coast Guard standing corps. It foresees as well making information systems for border and migration management interoperable by 2023.

Upcoming proposal will make visa applications and travel documents digital.

Co-legislators should quickly adopt the New Pact on Migration and Asylum proposal on screening of people crossing without authorisation, the executive body of the Union urges.

Within the scope of this plan is also the internal dimension of the Schengen area that should be reinforced, as close cooperation between EU countries on preventing and fighting security threats is crucial to sustain and compensate for the absence of controls at internal borders.

Among the new initiatives foreseen in this respect are an EU Police Cooperation Code, the upgrade of the so called ‘Prüm’ framework for exchanging information on DNA, fingerprints and vehicle registration and expanding the use of advance passenger information to intra-Schengen flights.

Once adopted, the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, will also create a common approach to managing migration, which is an important element for the well-functioning of the Schengen area.

For improving preparedness and governance, the EC is proposing to revise the Schengen evaluation and monitoring mechanism.

Following the two Schengen forums that already took place this initiative will become regular annual event to foster political dialogue on addressing common challenges, based on annual reports on the State of Schengen.

In the next months, the Commission will propose to revise the Schengen Borders Code to boost Schengen's resilience to serious threats by ensuring close coordination and introducing the necessary safeguards so that reintroducing internal border checks remains a measure of last resort.

A contingency plan allowing the reactivation of the successful Green Lanes system for uninterrupted freight traffic in case of future crises will be tabled as well.

The Commission will launch as well a dialogue with EU countries to address long-lasting reintroductions of controls at internal borders.

Enlargement of the Schengen area is also a priority, as the EU executive insists that this area’s future must be marked by the expansion to those EU Member States that are not yet part.

It is about the accession of Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia. Cyprus will come in fourth after being completely in line with the criteria. This is both a legitimate expectation and a legal obligation for those countries evaluated as ready for accession, the Commission says.

EC Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, commented at a news conference that unfettered movement within the Schengen area is essential to the European way of life. According to him, Schengen is a “well oiled machine but like any machine, to stand the test of time, its foundations need to be constantly shored up and strengthened”.

Today we are setting out a new way forward that ensures the security and mobility of EU citizens while boosting Schengen's resilience to challenges, he specified stressing that “of course, Schengen is not complete without all our Member States”. A more inclusive Schengen will be a stronger and more secure Schengen, VP Schinas asserted.

With today's Schengen Strategy, we will be stronger outwards to be freer inwards, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, explained, noting that state-of-the-art IT systems will improve external border management while enhanced police cooperation and common migration management will help reinforce the Schengen area without border checks.

As she stated, the new strategy “will foster the trust and governance to allow us to better anticipate, prepare and react and I am committed to making sure all Member States play their part”.


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