The Council has today adopted the Commission's proposal to prolong proportionate controls at certain internal Schengen borders in Germany, Austria, Sweden, Denmark and Norway, for up to six months. These countries had already introduced measures to address the threat to public policy and internal security resulting from the secondary movements of irregular migrants from Greece. Last week, the Commission proposed a recommendation to extend these measures, in line with the Schengen Borders Code, as, and despite significant progress made by Greece, not all of the serious deficiencies identified could be adequately and comprehensively addressed within the three months' limit.
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: "We welcome the adoption of our proposal by the Council. Huge efforts have been made by Greece but as long as serious deficiencies in border management persist some internal border control measures need to be maintained. This is in line with our roadmap to return to a normal functioning of the Schengen zone by November. We need to get there in an orderly way. "
Commissioner of Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said: “Schengen is one of the greatest achievements of European integration, and the Commission is committed to safeguarding it. In order to do that, these coordinated temporary steps are necessary as long as deficiencies at our external borders persist and I welcome the Council's adoption of our proposal. The Commission will continue to provide comprehensive support to the Greek authorities. Significant progress has already been made and the EU-Turkey agreement has led to a sharp decrease of the arrivals in Greece. Today's decision paves the way for a return to the normal functioning of the Schengen area and the lifting of all internal border controls by the end of 2016”.
Today’s Council Recommendation recommends that five countries maintain border controls for a further period of six months at the following internal borders:
Austria at the Austrian-Hungarian land border and Austrian-Slovenian land border;
Germany at the German-Austrian land border;
Denmark in the Danish ports with ferry connections to Germany and at the Danish-German land border;
Sweden in the Swedish harbours in the Police Region South and West and at the Öresund bridge;
Norway in the Norwegian ports with ferry connections to Denmark, Germany and Sweden.
These measures, foreseen under the Schengen Borders Code, act as a safeguard for the overall functioning of the area without internal border controls. The objective is to lift all internal border controls and return to a normally functioning Schengen area by the end of 2016, in line with the "Back to Schengen" Roadmap.
The Schengen Borders Code (Article 29 – formerly Article 26) sets out a specific procedure for exceptional circumstances where the overall functioning of the Schengen area is put at risk by serious and persistent deficiencies at an EU external border. This procedure does not seek to sanction or isolate a Member State nor does it aim to exclude any Member State from the Schengen area.
Under the Schengen Evaluation Mechanism, established in October 2013, Schengen evaluations are carried out in Member States based on a multi-annual and an annual evaluation programme. Such visits can be announced or unannounced and are carried out by Commission-led teams with experts from Member States and Frontex.
Following each visit, a report is drawn up identifying any shortcomings and this is accompanied by recommendations for remedial action, with a deadline for their implementation. The Council, based on a proposal from the Commission, adopts the recommendations. As a follow-up, the Member State in question is required to submit an action plan setting out how it intends to remedy the weaknesses identified.
If serious deficiencies in the management of external borders are identified, the Commission may in addition recommend that the evaluated Member State take certain specific measures with a view to ensuring compliance with the Council Recommendation.
An evaluation of the application of the Schengen rules in the field of external border management by Greece was carried out in November 2015. The Evaluation Report, which revealed serious deficiencies in the carrying out of external border control by Greece, was adopted by the Commission on 2 February 2016. Recommendations for remedial action were adopted by the Council on 12 February 2016.
As the Evaluation Report found serious deficiencies, the Commission adopted on 24 February 2016 an implementing decision setting out recommendations on specific measures to be taken by Greece. The recommendations seek to ensure that Greece applies all Schengen rules related to management of the external border.
On 12 March 2016, Greece presented its Action Plan to remedy the deficiencies identified in the evaluation report and subject to the Council recommendations. On 12 April 2016 the Commission presented its assessment of the adequacy of the Action Plan. On 29 April 2016, Greece presented its report on the implementation of the Action Plan.
In accordance with the Schengen Borders Code, the Commission must assess on the basis of a report by Greece to be presented within three months of the Council recommendations, whether the serious deficiencies still persist.
On 4 May 2016, the Commission proposed to the Council to adopt a Recommendation to prolong proportionate temporary controls at certain internal Schengen borders, namely in Germany, Austria, Sweden, Denmark and Norway, for a maximum period of six months.
For more information
Communication from the Commission: Assessment of Greece’s Action Plan to remedy the serious deficiencies identified in the 2015 evaluation on the application of the Schengen acquis in the field of management of the external border