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European Parliament backs Schengen reform deal
Freedom of movement within the Schengen area will be better protected thanks to MEPs' input to the new Schengen governance rules. Inspection teams will in future be able to make unannounced visits to internal borders to halt any attempt to impose illegal checks. Free movement is the most positive outcome of 50 years of EU integration, said 62% of respondents to a recent Eurobarometer survey.
The Schengen governance package, already agreed informally by Parliament and Council negotiators and endorsed by the full House on Wednesday, includes two regulations. One establishes a new EU-based Schengen evaluation mechanism to deal with critical situations and the other amends the Schengen Borders Code to lay down common rules for the temporary re-imposition of checks at internal borders in exceptional cases.
Unannounced visits to internal borders
For the first time, it will be possible for inspection teams to make unannounced visits to monitor any attempt to introduce illegal border checks at internal borders. When the teams visit external borders, the member state concerned should be notified at least 24 hours in advance. Inspection teams will include experts from the member states, the Commission and EU agencies and bodies.
Reintroducing border checks as a last resort
The Schengen Borders Code (SBC) already allows internal border checks to be temporarily reimposed in exceptional circumstances that could constitute a serious threat to public policy or internal security.
The amended SBC stresses that any reintroduction of border controls at internal borders should remain an exception and should take place only as a measure of last resort, for a strictly limited scope and period of time, based on specific objective criteria and on an assessment of its necessity which should be monitored at Union level.
In the event of a serious threat to public policy or internal security, checks could be reimposed for 30 days, and prolonged for up to six months. Where unforeseeable events require immediate action (e.g.. a terrorist attack), member states could re-impose border checks unilaterally, for up to 10 days. Any prolongation would have to be monitored at EU level.
Migration, as such, is not a threat to security
"Migration and the crossing of external borders by a large number of third-country nationals should not, per se, be considered to be a threat to public policy or to internal security," says the text.
The Schengen governance package is expected to be adopted formally by the Council in the autumn.
No double standards
Schengen candidate countries and those that are already members of the check-free area will be evaluated in the same way and subject to the same rules.)