EU member states last night asked the EU Commission to prepare for a two-year suspension of the EU’s borderless Schengen agreement.
After an informal meeting of EU home affairs ministers in Amsterdam, Dutch minister for migration Klaas Dijkhoff stated:
“Member states invited the European Commission to prepare the legal and practical basis for the continuance of temporary border measures through Article 26 of the Schengen code,”
So far six Schengen members (Germany, Sweden, Austria, France, Denmark and non-EU member Norway) have reinstated temporary border checks in the passport-free area – measures which can stay in place until May.
But under the Article 26 procedure those controls can be prolonged for up to two years if a member state struggles with “persistent serious deficiencies in the carrying out of external border control” that places “risks” on the overall functioning of the area.
An evaluation of Schengen has already been launched if it finds that there are systematic problems, member states would be permitted to reintroduce, or maintain, border controls.
Greece, which according to Frontex has seen the total number of migrant arrivals in 2015 reach 880,000, was particularly targeted for criticism. EU interior ministers even discussed plans to seal off Greece from the Schengen travel zone altogether.
Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner warned that Athens faced “temporary exclusion” from the Schengen zone:
“If the Athens government does not finally do more to secure the [EU’s] external borders, then one has to openly discuss Greece’s temporary exclusion from the Schengen zone,” she said in an interview with German daily Die Welt.
“It is a myth that the Greco-Turkish border cannot be controlled,
“When a Schengen signatory continuously fails to meet its obligations and only hesitatingly accepts aid then we should not rule out that possibility.
“The patience of many Europeans is coming to an end. There was a lot of talk, now we must act. It’s about protecting stability, order and security in Europe,”