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Brussels, 13 October 2010
Schengen Borders Code: Application of the rules providing for the absence of controls on persons crossing the internal EU borders
What does the Schengen Borders Code foresee in terms of internal EU borders crossings?
The Schengen Borders Code, adopted in 2006, entered into force on 13 October 2006. Title III of the Code confirmed the absence of any controls on persons crossing the internal borders between the Schengen Member States. Under the Code, the abolition of internal border controls also obliges Member States to remove obstacles to traffic at road crossing-points at internal borders. However, in exceptional circumstances involving a serious threat to public policy or internal security of a Member State, border control at internal borders may be reintroduced for a limited period of time, in accordance with the procedure laid down by the Code.
How are the provisions related to checks within the territory practically applied?
In principle, the crossing of an internal border between two Member States should be treated the same way as travelling within a Member State. However, in view of their responsibility for the maintenance of law and order and the safeguarding of internal security, Member States may carry out checks in accordance with risk assessment throughout their whole territory including internal border zones, insofar as the exercise of those powers does not have an effect equivalent to border checks.
The Schengen Borders Code includes criteria in order to determine in which case the exercise of police powers in internal border zones would not have equivalent effect to border checks. Among these criteria, the objective and frequency of the checks carried out in internal border zones compared to other parts of the territory confronted with a similar situation are key.
However, most Member States do not provide for clear explanations and do not have available data on the frequency of checks in the border areas. Therefore, the Commission considers indispensable to receive more information from Member States on the reasons and the frequency of checks carried out in the internal border zones.
What about the obligation to remove obstacles to traffic at road crossing points at internal borders?
Numerous complaints from citizens point out the continuous presence of obstacles to fluid traffic flow at certain road crossing points at internal borders, in particular old infrastructure (e.g. buildings, control booths, roofs over the road or mobile equipment such as plastic cones, barriers, reduction of the number of lanes, traffic lights or road signs) and consequent considerable limitations of speed. The Commission regrets that this also applies to the road crossing points at internal borders of certain Member States who have been members of the Schengen area for a considerable time.
In most cases, the majority of obstacles that could be immediately dismantled were removed by Member States just after internal border controls were lifted. Member States who joined the Schengen area in December 2007 implemented this obligation in several phases according to the degree of difficulties linked to the removal of obstacles. However, some Member States (PT, CZ, EL, EE, FR, AT, FI, LT, LV, SI, LU), have kept the old infrastructure at certain road crossing-points in the event of the temporary reintroduction of border control. Some also maintain the infrastructure for the exercise of customs controls, or checks on lorries (LU), while others plan to use mobile equipment if border control is reintroduced (CZ, FR, LT, LV). Other Member States (DE, PL, DK, IT) have dismantled all infrastructure where possible and merely use mobile equipment for the temporary reintroduction of border control.
Permanent infrastructure for the cases of a temporary reintroduction of border control may be maintained to the necessary extent, as long as it does not represent an obstacle to fluid traffic flow and lowered speed limits. In the view of the Commission, it is however unacceptable that some Member States maintain speed limits for "traffic security" reasons, in particular when the old infrastructure is still present at the crossing-points.
Which difficulties are related to the temporary reintroduction by Member States of border control at internal borders?
Since the entry into force of the Schengen Borders Code, twelve Member States have temporarily reintroduced controls on persons at internal borders in view of foreseeable events and for reasons requiring urgent action (FR, ES, DE, AT, IT, DK, FI, EE, LV, MT, NO, IS). Neighbouring countries have submitted information on their cooperation during the reintroduction of border control (PT, PL, CZ, SK, SI, NL, LU, CH).
However, the timeframe (between notification by Member States and the de facto reintroduction of internal border control for foreseeable events) for issuing a Commission opinion for the purpose of formal consultation between the Member States and the Commission is too short (in some cases, the notification was sent a few days before the reintroduction of border control). Moreover, the notifications often do not contain sufficient information to allow the Commission to issue an opinion. Furthermore, the information supplied on temporary reintroduction is often very general and does not allow for a full assessment of the effectiveness of the measures taken with regard to the threat to public policy or internal security. Nevertheless, on the basis of the available information, the Commission considers that Member States have not abused the possibility to reintroduce border controls.
For more information
Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs: