Schengen also needs urgent recovery plan

It should avert border controls becoming semi-permanent

Photo: EP Juan Fernando López Aguilar.

In a resolution, adopted on Thursday with an overwhelming majority, the Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) demanded for a swift return to a fully functional Schengen area as to safeguard freedom of movement and ensure the EU’s economic recovery after the pandemic.

MEPs said that the current situation of internal border controls in the Schengen area and their impact on people and businesses is a matter of concern.

Steering towards a regional approach that may be more adequate than national border controls, the members of LIBE demanded EU countries to reduce restrictions on the freedom of movement to the same extent Covid-19 containment measures are being relaxed.

Lawmakers also insisted that a debate on setting up a recovery plan for Schengen is urgently needed as to outline a roadmap for coming back to a fully functioning Schengen area as quickly as possible and “to prevent temporary internal border controls from becoming semi-permanent”. It should also include contingency plans in case of a potential second wave, MEPs urged.

They underlined that is necessary a reflection on how to enhance mutual trust between Member States, ensuring a truly European governance of the Schengen and called on the Commission to propose a reform of Schengen governance in light of new challenges.

Once again, MEPs urged the Council to increase its efforts in Schengen integration and take the necessary steps to admit Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia into Schengen.

The plenary will vote on the resolution most probably during the next plenary session later this month.

I strongly deplore any unilateral or disproportionate measures by individual Member States to impose border restrictions upon other Member States without communication or a clear and limited timeframe, LIBE Chair and rapporteur Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES) stressed.

He added that all actions meant to restore a fully operational Schengen area must be coordinated at EU level and fully respect the principle of non-discrimination. The rapporteur also highlighted that the Schengen area constitutes one of the greatest achievements in the history of the EU. Without a fully functional Schengen, there will be neither a recovery, nor a promising future for the EU, he opined.

His colleague from Slovenia Tanja Fajon, Chair of LIBE Working Group on Schengen Scrutiny, commented that the Schengen area has been left in a sorry state as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. Stopping the spread of the virus and restricting freedom of movement was always going to require a fine balance, she said arguing that however, the initial lack of coordination and insufficient justification provided by Member States on their measures put the functioning of the Schengen area at serious risk.

Fajon also emphasised that “it is essential for the Member States to have more trust in each other and equally we need to make sure the European Commission is capable of taking the reins to ensure a more effective response when it comes to the Schengen area than we have seen up until now”.

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