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European Commission - Press release
Commission carries out the first Schengen 'health check'
Brussels, 16 May 2012 - Over 400 million Europeans currently enjoy passport-free travel across the Schengen area. With Europeans making more than 1.25 billion journeys every year, vigilance is required to defend citizens' right to free movement. Today, the Commission adopted its first 'health check', a biannual overview on the functioning of the Schengen area, which will contribute to enhancing political guidance and cooperation amongst Schengen participating countries. The report is accompanied by guidelines which seek to ensure a coherent interpretation and implementation of the selected issues, in a spirit of solidarity.
"Schengen is one of the most valued achievements of European integration. It is widely cherished by EU's citizens and makes a major contribution to our economic prosperity. Everyone needs to do their part to preserve Schengen. This starts with a regular, healthy debate in the European Parliament and the Council for which today's report provides a good basis", said Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs.
The first report covers the period from 1st November 2011 to 30th April 2012 and assesses in particular:
The situation at the external Schengen borders and within the Schengen area
The pressure at the Schengen external borders is focused on a limited number of hot spots, in particular the Eastern Mediterranean route via Turkey to Greece. In the last three months of 2011, nearly 30 000 irregular border crossings were detected at the external borders and about 75 percent of these were on the Eastern Mediterranean route.
Following the serious shortcomings identified in Greece, the Commission considers that the efforts, especially as regards the control of the external land and sea borders, need to remain a priority. The EU therefore needs to continue supporting the country's effort to manage its external borders, in particular through assisting Greece to make more efficient use of the relevant EU funds for migration management.
The application of Schengen rules
During the 6 month period covered in the report, controls at internal borders have been reintroduced only twice: by France at its border with Italy (for the G20 Summit on 3-4 November 2011) and by Spain at its border with France and at the Barcelona and Gerona airports (for the European Central Bank meeting on 2-4 May 2012). The Commission will continue to ensure full implementation of EU rules, in particular regarding police checks and obstacles at internal borders.
Verifications of the correct application of the rules have been carried out in several participating States (via the Schengen evaluation mechanism) regarding: air borders in Hungary, Malta and Slovenia, visas in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta and Slovenia, SIS/Sirene in Finland and Sweden, police cooperation in Malta, Slovenia, Sweden, Iceland and Norway and data protection in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Iceland. Although the report shows that in some cases there is some room for improvement, none of the evaluations have shown the type of deficiencies that would require immediate action by the Commission.
Visa issuance procedures and visa free regimes
The launch of the Visa Information System (VIS) on 11 October 2011 has proved successful in the first region of deployment (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia). All Schengen States’ consular posts worldwide should be connected to the Visa Information System within two years.
Guidelines on the issuance of (temporary) residence permits and travel documents
The European Commission stresses the need for Member States to inform other Member States and the Commission in a timely manner of decisions they intend to take with regard to the issuing of residence permits. If a migrant does not meet the conditions for travelling within the Schengen area, the Member State issuing a (temporary) residence permit should opt for issuing a (provisional) residence permit which is not equivalent to a short stay Schengen visa. Member States should inform the holders of such documents in an appropriate and efficient way, about the conditions under which they can (or cannot) travel within the Schengen area.
Guidelines on police measures in the internal border zones
Member States may exercise police powers in internal border zones, in order to verify a person's right to stay within the territory. However, checks may only be carried out as spot-checks according to the assessment of the risk.
When assessing the compatibility of police checks in internal border zones with the Schengen rules, it is necessary to examine how these checks are implemented in practice. The Commission needs to seek concrete statistical information from Member States; it may therefore request the Member State concerned to submit information on checks performed at the border during a given period as well as on how these have contributed to reaching the aims laid down in national legislation or strategies, i.e. in combating cross-border crime.
In its Communication 'Schengen governance - strengthening the area without internal border control', the Commission detailed its intention to present to the EU institutions, twice a year, an overview on the functioning of Schengen.
The first report adopted today provides the basis for a debate in the European Parliament and in the Council and contributes to the strengthening of political guidance and cooperation between the 26 countries that are part of the Schengen area (all the EU Member States except UK, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus, and the non EU countries Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein).
For more information
Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs
Homepage DG Home Affairs: