Border checks are not common in the Schengen area, which comprises most EU states. But Germany reintroduced checks along the border with Austria in 2015 / Photo: European Union/Frontex

European Parliament votes on new Schengen rules

Border checks between Schengen countries should be limited to a maximum of one year, instead of the current two-year period, the European Parliament said in a draft law on Thursday (29 November).

Worried by member states that have introduced internal border checks within the Schengen area, the European Parliament (MEPs) decided on Thursday on new rules governing the use of border checks. The parliamentarians voted that border checks in the Schengen area should be limited to a maximum of one year, instead of the current two-year period. Members decided by 319 yes votes, 241against, with 78 abstentions to change the rules.

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.

In a plenary vote on Thursday establishing Parliament’s position for negotiating with EU ministers, MEPs agreed that:

  • the initial period for border checks should be limited to two months, instead of the current six-month period, and
  • border checks couldn’t be extended beyond one year, halving the current maximum limit of two years.
Map of the Schengen area / Photo: European Commission

MEPs highlighted that as the free movement of persons is affected by temporary border checks, these should only be used in exceptional circumstances and as a measure of last resort.

The talks with EU ministers can start now as the European Council has already agreed on its position in June.

The Schengen area comprises of European countries that have abolished passport and all other types of border control at their mutual borders. The area mostly functions as a single jurisdiction for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy.

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Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway currently have internal border checks in place due to the exceptional circumstances resulting from the migration crisis that started in 2015. In addition, France has internal border checks in place because of a persistent terrorist threat.

Felix Dappah

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