MEPs want to tighten time limits and conditions for internal border checks within the Schengen area.
The Schengen Borders Code, currently under revision, allows member states to carry out temporary checks at internal borders within the Schengen area, in the event of a serious threat to public order or to internal security.
Parliament and Council negotiators started the talks on the revision of the rules earlier this year, but decided to suspend the negotiations after it became evident that a compromise was not feasible.
In a plenary vote on Thursday, the Parliament confirmed that its position on the revision of the current rules is to reduce the initial period for border checks from six months (as is currently the case) to two months, and to limit any extension to a maximum period of one year, rather than current maximum limit of two years.
New safeguards for extensions
MEPs want Schengen countries to provide a detailed risk assessment if temporary border checks are extended beyond the initial two months. Furthermore, any subsequent extension of border checks beyond six months would require the Commission to assess whether the prolongation follows legal requirements or not and should be authorised by the EU i Council of Ministers. MEPs also want the Parliament to be more informed and involved in the process.
Rapporteur Tanja Fajon (S&D, SI) said: "Schengen is non-negotiable. Today’s text aims to fully restore it. Unfortunately, the Council showed no will to negotiate a compromise because the status quo suits a few big member states such as France and Germany. Illegal and illegitimate controls at internal Schengen borders have been in place for more than three and a half years. It is time that they end; or time for the Commission to act against them in Court."
The text was adopted by 339 votes to 205, with 62 abstentions.
The vote concludes Parliament’s first reading. It will be up to Parliament in its next term to consider the way forward.
Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway currently have internal border checks in place due to the exceptional circumstances resulting from the migratory crisis that started in 2015. In addition, France has internal border checks in place because of a persistent terrorist threat.