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European Commission - Fact Sheet

Questions & Answers: A coordinated EU approach for temporary internal border controls

Strasbourg, 25 October 2016

What has the Commission adopted today?

The Commission has today proposed a Recommendation, to be adopted by the Council, to prolong for another three months proportionate controls at certain internal Schengen borders, namely at the internal borders in Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway where controls are already in place pursuant to the Council Recommendation of 12 May 2016.

Specifically, the Commission recommends that the five countries maintain controls at the following internal borders for a further three months:

  • Austria at the Austrian-Hungarian and Austrian-Slovenian land borders;

  • Germany at the German-Austrian land border;

  • Denmark in Danish ports with ferry connections to Germany and at the Danish-German land border;

  • Sweden in Swedish harbours in the Police Region South and West and at the Öresund bridge;

  • Norway in Norwegian ports with ferry connections to Denmark, Germany and Sweden.

Why is the Commission recommending the prolongation of temporary controls at these internal borders?

As set out in the Commission's "Back to Schengen" Roadmap, the objective of the Commission is to return to a normally functioning Schengen area as soon as possible. However, the Commission considers that at this stage, the exceptional circumstances that led to the adoption of the Council Recommendation of 12 May are still present. Despite significant progress in the implementation of the Roadmap, the situation in Greece remains fragile and there is still pressure in the Member States most affected by the secondary movements of irregular migrants coming from Greece.

In particular, despite the significant decrease in the number of arrivals of irregular migrants and asylum seekers in the European Union notably due to the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, there is still a significant number of irregular migrants (about 60,000) in Greece. Additional factors are the ongoing challenges faced by the administrations of the Member States concerned resulting from the large number of arrivals of irregular migrants and asylum seekers over the past year, including the particularly high number of asylum applications to be processed combined with new applications still being made, and persisting challenges to ensure proper reception conditions such as housing, education and health services.

Furthermore, despite the steady and important progress in the fields identified by the "Back to Schengen" Roadmap, these actions still need time to be fully implemented and their results confirmed. The full implementation of the European Border and Coast Guard which was launched on 6 October, and which will further strengthen the protection of the EU external borders, will be completed by January 2017. The rapid reaction pools and the rapid return pools of the European Border and Coast Guard will be established and operational on 7 December 2016 and 7 January 2017 respectively. The full set of the first vulnerability assessments should be concluded in the first trimester of 2017. In addition, the continued implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement and a sustained reduction of arrivals will enable Member States to further process and absorb the backlog of asylum applications and solidify their reception capacities.

What will happen at the end of the three-month period for which temporary internal border controls will be prolonged by the Council Recommendation?

Article 29 of the Schengen Borders Code foresees that the Council may prolong the initial period during which temporary internal border controls are authorised, for a further period of up to six months and up to a maximum period of 2 years, if the exceptional circumstances persist.

Does the Recommendation set limits and conditions to the recommended prolongation of internal border controls in these five countries?

As set out in the Commission's Recommendation, the Schengen States currently carrying out temporary internal border control pursuant to the Council Recommendation of 12 May 2016 should be permitted to continue doing so. However, in view of the progressive stabilisation of the situation, border checks should only be adopted as a last resort when other, less restrictive measures cannot sufficiently address the threats identified. Therefore, before opting for a continuation of border controls the Member States concerned should examine all alternative measures and inform of the outcome of this examination in their notification to other Member States, the European Parliament and the Commission on the maintenance of internal border controls.

Internal border controls should be 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. Member States carrying out internal border controls should regularly consult with the Member States concerned and review on a weekly basis the necessity, frequency, location and time of controls, adjust the intensity of the controls to the level of the threat addressed, and phase them out wherever appropriate.

After each month of implementation of the Recommendation, the Member States concerned should report to the Commission on the outcome of the controls carried out and on the continued necessity of such controls. This report should at minimum include the total number of persons checked, the total number of refusals of entry following the checks, the total number of return decisions issued following the checks and the total number of asylum applications received at the internal borders where the checks take place.

The Commission will closely monitor the application of this Recommendation and the situation on the ground.

Why was the Article 29 procedure triggered in the first place?

In exceptional situations, deficiencies in the management of the external border of the EU can put at risk the functioning of the internal area of free movement insofar as these circumstances constitute a serious threat to public policy and internal security. 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 constituted a serious threat to public policy and internal security in the Member States most affected by the secondary movements. On 12 May 2016, the Council recommended temporary border controls 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 and now prolonged for a further period of three months are only linked to the exceptional circumstances resulting from the serious deficiencies identified in the external border management by Greece at the time.

Can these countries introduce controls at borders other than the ones listed in the Recommendation?

Controls in response to migration routes not linked 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 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 Member State, that 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 of six 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 – 12 November 2016) Swedish harbours in the Police Region South and West and the Öresund bridge

  • Norway (10 June – 12 November 2016) Norwegian ports with ferry connections to Denmark, Germany and Sweden

For more information

Council implementing decision setting out a Recommendation for prolonging temporary internal border control in exceptional circumstances putting the overall functioning of the Schengen area at risk

Press release: Commission recommends extending temporary internal border controls for a limited period of three months

FACTSHEET: The Schengen Rules Explained

Back to Schengen – A Roadmap

Press release: Commission takes next steps towards lifting of temporary internal border controls

Commission proposal for a Council Recommendation on internal border controls

Press release: Commission adopts second Recommendation identifying steps to restore Dublin transfers to Greece

Press release: Launch of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency

Questions and answers: The new European Border and Coast Guard Agency

Press release: Commission reports on progress made under the European Agenda on Migration

Press release: Council adopts Commission proposal on next steps towards lifting of temporary border controls

MEMO/16/3502

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