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Commission reports on EU free movement
The Schengen area of free movement allows more than 400 million EU citizens from 26 European countries and an increasing number of non-EU citizens, to travel without internal border controls. Yesterday the Commission presented its third Schengen 'health check', a biannual overview on the functioning of the Schengen area. The report provides a clear account of the state of the Schengen area, to ensure a coherent implementation of the common rules amongst all Schengen participating countries1.
"Schengen is one of the most valued and concrete European achievements. It is widely cherished by EU's citizens and makes a major contribution to our economic prosperity. The question of how we can strengthen our cooperation and safeguard free movement is extremely important. We owe it to our citizens to make sure Schengen remains an area without border controls. ", said Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.
This third report covers the period 1 November 2012 – 30 April 2013 and assesses in particular:
The application of Schengen rules
During the 6 month period covered in the report, controls at internal borders have been reintroduced once by Norway, on the occasion of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo (10 December 2012). From 3 until 12 December 2012, 3 136 persons were checked, 19 were refused entry and 8 were apprehended.
Verifications of the correct application of the rules have been carried out through spot checks in several participating States (via the Schengen evaluation mechanism) regarding: police cooperation (in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), air borders (in Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic), land borders (in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and visa (in Estonia, Poland and Slovakia). These evaluations have not shown the type of deficiencies that would require immediate action by the Commission.
Visa issuance and security procedures
The Visa Information System (VIS) is currently operational in five regions, having most recently been launched in West Africa and Central Africa (March 2013). It will soon start operations in East Africa and South Africa (6 June 2013), in South America (5 September 2013), as well as in Central Asia, South-East Asia and Palestine (14 November 2013). The VIS is working well and by 6 May 2013, the system had processed around 2,9 million visa applications, issued around 2,4 million and refused some 348 000 visas.
On 9 April 2013 the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II) successfully entered into operation (IP/13/309 and MEMO/13/309). The SIS II provides Member States with enhanced new functionalities and categories of alerts, allowing for an easy exchange of information between national border control authorities, customs and police authorities on persons who may have been involved in a serious crime or who may be missing.
The situation at the external Schengen borders
From October-December 2012, approximately 13 600 irregular border crossings were detected, which is a 52% reduction compared to the fourth quarter of 2011. While Greece reported more than half of all detections of irregular border crossing from July-September 2012, this situation changed in August 2012, when Greece redeployed around 1.800 border guards at its land border with Turkey. From October-December 2012, Italy reported 31% of all detections (4 231 persons), followed by Greece, reporting 30% of the detections (4 035 persons).
Efforts will continue to improve the information gathering on migration flows within the Schengen area, with a view to launching a regular data collection and analysis of irregular migratory movements in 2014.
In September 2011, the Commission made proposals to strengthen the efficiency and legitimacy of the Schengen system (IP/11/1036 and MEMO/11/606). In its Communication 'Schengen governance - strengthening the area without internal border control', the Commission announced its intention to present an overview on the functioning of Schengen to the EU institutions twice a year.
These reports provide the basis for a debate in the European Parliament and in the Council and contribute to the strengthening of political guidance and cooperation between the Schengen countries. The previous Commission report was adopted in November 2012 (IP/12/1256).
In addition, negotiations on the two legislative proposals put forward in September 2011 are on-going. These legislative proposals provide for a stronger, EU-based evaluation and monitoring system to verify and ensure the application of the Schengen rules, and for a more structured European decision-making mechanism that could allow, in truly exceptional situations, for the temporary reintroduction of internal border controls in case of serious threats to public policy or internal security. On the 29 and 30 May an agreement on the Schengen proposals was reached at trilogue and Coreper level, bringing a stronger system for free movement one step closer.
Third biannual report on the functioning of the Schengen area
Cecilia Malmström's website
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DG Home Affairs website
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Infographic: 'Entering the EU - Borders and Visas'
Michele Cercone (+32 2 298 09 63)
Tove Ernst (+32 2 298 67 64)