The Commission has today adopted a report evaluating the implementation of the Council Recommendation of 12 May 2016, which allowed five countries (Schengen Member States Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway) to continue carrying out border controls at specific sections of their internal borders to address the exceptional circumstances that gave rise to the persistent risk of secondary movements of irregular migrants coming from Greece.
The Commission's report concludes that the temporary internal border controls carried out by the Schengen Member States concerned have remained within the conditions set by the Council in its Recommendation. The controls have been limited to what is strictly necessary and proportionate in light of the serious threat to public policy and internal security posed by the risk of secondary movements of irregular migrants entering via Greece. The Commission further concludes that there is currently no change of circumstances that would justify an amendment of the Recommendation at this stage.
Why is the Commission issuing its evaluation on the continued necessity of these controls today?
On 12 May 2016, the Council adopted, on the basis of a Commission proposal under Article 29 of the Schengen Borders Code, an Implementing Decision setting out a Recommendation for temporary internal border controls in exceptional circumstances putting the overall functioning of the Schengen area at risk. It was the first time that the specific safeguard procedure of Article 29 (formerly Article 26) of the Schengen Borders Code was used.
This Recommendation was addressed to the five Schengen Member States (Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway) most affected by the flows of irregular migrants coming from Greece in the context of the unprecedented migratory and refugee crisis that started in 2015. It authorised these five countries to maintain proportionate temporary border controls at specific sections of their internal borders for a maximum period of six months from the day of the adoption of the Recommendation.
The reintroduced border controls under the Recommendation had to fulfil several conditions. They had to be targeted and limited in scope, frequency, location and time, to what is strictly necessary to respond to the serious threat and to safeguard public policy and internal security. Furthermore, their necessity had to be regularly reviewed, and if needed adjusted, by the Schengen countries concerned. The Schengen Member States carrying out controls had to report to the Commission every two months.
In its Recommendation, the Council took note that the Commission would monitor the application of the Recommendation and report to the European Parliament and the Council after four months as from the date of adoption of this Recommendation.
The present report contains the findings of the Commission, focusing on whether, as recommended, the reintroduced internal border controls have been limited to what is strictly necessary and proportionate in light of the serious threat to public policy and internal security, posed by the persistent risk of secondary movements of irregular migrants entering via Greece and who might move to other Schengen Member States. It also analyses whether the circumstances have changed so as to require an adaptation of the Council Recommendation.
What will happen at the end of the six-month period during which temporary internal border controls are authorised by the Council Recommendation?
Today's Report does not prejudge the decision that will be taken by the Council, on a proposal from the Commission, whether to prolong or not the current temporary internal border controls at the end of the six-month period set in the Recommendation (12 November 2016).
As set out in the Commission's "Back to Schengen" Roadmap, the objective is to return to a normally functioning Schengen area as soon as possible. In this respect, the agreement reached by the co-legislators on the Commission's proposal for a European Border and Coast Guard is essential to ensure that the European Union can deliver on the joint responsibility to protect the external border. The Commission, Frontex and Member States have already undertaken preparatory work – ahead of the official launched on 6 October in Bulgaria.
The sustainable implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March 2016 is also an important element in restoring the normal functioning of the Schengen area, as well as the full application of the existing Dublin rules, with the full participation of Greece. The implementation of the emergency relocation schemes and the return of persons who have no right to stay in the EU are also important aspects contributing to a strong and sustainable EU migration and border management system.
Article 29 of the Schengen Borders Code states that the six-month period of controls can be extended, no more than three times, for further periods of up to six months, and up to a maximum period of two years. Any extension would depend on the persistence of the exceptional circumstances that triggered the application of the Article.
Why was the Article 29 procedure triggered in the first place?
In exceptional situations, deficiencies in the management of the external Schengen border can put at risk the functioning of the internal area of free movement. In these cases, the Council is empowered to recommend border controls at one or several internal borders.
In the context of the unprecedented migratory and refugee crisis which started in 2015, such deficiencies were identified in the external border management by Greece and the secondary movements resulting from these deficiencies. On 12 May 2016, the Council agreed for a temporary border control in five Schengen countries - Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway – mostly affected by the flows of irregular migrants coming from Greece.
Are the temporary controls linked only to the situation in Greece, or do they take into account the overall migratory situation (e.g. also potential future flows coming from Italy)?
The temporary controls proposed by the Commission in May are only linked to the exceptional circumstances resulting from the serious deficiencies identified in the external border management by Greece.
Can these countries introduce controls at other borders than the ones listed in the recommendation?
Controls in response to alternative routes not linked to the Greece/Turkey migratory route and concerns relating to Greece's control of its external border, for example from the Central Mediterranean, cannot take place on the basis of the current Recommendation.
Can Schengen Member States still make use of the general provisions of the Schengen Borders Code to temporarily reintroduce internal border controls?
Article 29 of the Schengen Borders Code states that the exceptional procedure referred to under this article is without prejudice to measures that may be adopted by Schengen Member States in the event of a serious threat to public policy or internal security under the general provisions for the temporary reintroduction of border controls at internal borders (Articles 25 to 28 of the Schengen Borders Code).
In the case of a serious threat to public policy or internal security in a Schengen Member State, that Schengen Member State may reintroduce temporary border controls at all or parts of its internal borders for a maximum of two months in cases requiring immediate action (Article 28) and a maximum six of months in case of foreseeable events (Article 25).
Which countries currently have internal border controls in place under the recommendation?
Temporarily reintroduced border controls in the context of the Recommendation of the Council of 12 May 2016:
Germany (12 May – 12 November 2016) land border with Austria
Austria (16 May – 12 November 2016) land border with Slovenia and with Hungary
Denmark (1 June – 12 November 2016) Danish ports with ferry connections to Germany and the Danish-German land border
Sweden (8 June – 11 November 2016) Swedish harbours in the Police Region South and West and the Öresund bridge
Norway (10 June – 11 November 2016) Norwegian ports with ferry connections to Denmark, Germany and Sweden
For more information
FACTSHEET: "The Schengen Rules Explained"