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IP/10/1329

Brussels, 13 October 2010

Schengen Borders Code evaluated: Commission concerned about reported difficulties for travellers

In its report on the application of the Schengen Border Code concerning the internal borders, the Commission points to three specific issues of concern: difficulties linked to alleged regular and systematic checks in certain internal border zones; maintenance of obstacles to fluid traffic flow at road crossing-points at internal borders; and delays in the notification of planned reintroduction of internal borders controls.

"An area without internal borders where people can move freely is one of the greatest achievements of European cooperation, and something that really benefits the citizens. It is therefore regrettable this is not respected everywhere, which this report shows, said EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström.

The Schengen agreement means that individuals, irrespective of their nationality, can cross internal borders at any point without being subject to border checks. However, checks on people under the exercise of police powers by the competent authorities of the Member States are allowed throughout the territory, including in border areas, insofar as the exercise of those powers does not have an effect which is the equivalent of border checks.

The Commission is concerned by the difficulties reported by travellers in connection with alleged regular and systematic checks carried out in certain internal border zones. To adequately monitor this situation and to address the concerns of the citizens, the Commission considers that more information from Member States is needed on how often and why they carry out checks in the internal border zones.

In response to this situation, the Commission is assessing complaints and addressing Member States to obtain explanations. If the explanations are not satisfactory, the Commission will use all available means to ensure the correct application of Union law. The Commission will also request Member States to provide statistics on police checks carried out within their territories and in particular in the internal border zones. Moreover, in its proposal on the revised Schengen evaluation mechanism, the Commission will envisage carrying out unannounced on-site visits to verify the absence of checks at internal borders.

The Commission also notes that at road crossing-points at internal borders large scale infrastructure is still being maintained, frequently accompanied by significant speed limits. The Commission is of the opinion that the Member States must remove all these obstacles to facilitate traffic flow, and in particular any speed limits not exclusively based on road-safety considerations.

Finally, in regard to the fact that the Schengen Borders Code allows the temporary reintroduction of border control at internal borders, the Commission insists on timely notification of any planned reintroduction of internal border controls. The Commission also requests Member States to provide detailed information in order to allow the Commission, when necessary, to give its opinion, and to proceed to formal consultations between Member States and the Commission.

Background

The Schengen agreement was signed on 14 June 1985 by Belgium, German, France, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands and allows free movement of people within the Schengen area, by abolishing the systematic controls of internal borders.

The Schengen area currently consists of 25 Schengen Member States i.e. the EU countries Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, as well as the three associated non EU countries, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus only partially apply the Schengen legislation at the moment and checks are therefore still carried out at the borders with these three EU Member States.

The Schengen Borders Code (regulation (EC) No 562/2006) entered into force on 13 October 2006. It consolidates and further develops the Schengen legislation. Title III of the Code confirmed the absence of any controls on people crossing the internal borders between the Schengen countries.

Article 38 of the Schengen Border Code foresees that the Commission should submit to the European Parliament and the Council by 13 October 2009 a report on the application of Title III. With this purpose, the Commission addressed a questionnaire to Member States in order to obtain information on the application of the provisions of Title III of the Schengen Border Code. The deadline for the submission of the report could not be met due to the late submission of information by several Member States. The Commission report, prepared on the basis of the Member States answers, also reflects information submitted to the Commission by citizens and Members of the European Parliament, pointing out alleged border checks at the internal borders and remaining obstacles to fluid traffic flow at certain former border crossing points.

For more information

Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs:

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/malmstrom/index_en.htm

MEMO/10/488


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