Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Are European borders set to close?

European parliament has reacted strongly this week about calls for the review of the Schengen agreement.  The Schengen agreement was instituted in 1985 near the town of Schengen in Luxembourg, initially with five member states of the European Economic Community. This has now grown to 26 signatories.  It effectively facilitates the flow of internal travel without the need for a visa, between countries that have signed up to the agreement.

MEPs are angry that the EU home affairs minsters led by the Danish justice minister Morten Bødskov, who holds the rotating presidency of the EU, agreed that visa free travel that the Schengen agreement allows could be stopped temporarily.   MEPs may take the matter to court, as the legal basis on which Schengen is based has been altered.  European governments can currently suspend this agreement in times of urgent need; however the debate is now focusing on whether this length of time should be extended for periods of up to two years.  This would be following previous monitoring of borders showing a threat to national security or public policy. Greece has been criticized for example, for not securing their borders with Turkey enough.  Germany and France have led the call to date for countries to be able to reintroduce border controls.  Sarkozy during his presidential election campaign had said that he would consider pulling out of the Schengen zone.

The UK is not signed up to the Schengen agreement, alongside Cyprus and Ireland.

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