The EP has summoned the Danish Presidency to an emergency debate in plenary next week to explain why member states resorted to judicial sleight of hand to sideline MEPs from an initiative affecting the Schengen area of visa-free travel within the EU. The Council decision means there will be no independent scrutiny of border controls by EU institutions. The EP is currently considering all legal options.
EP president Martin Schulz said: "In a Union of states and citizens, it is disturbing to see that national governments seek to exclude the citizens' representatives on matters relating to individual rights. Free movement within an area without internal borders is a pillar of the European Union - one of its most tangible benefits - and the European Parliament will fight to strengthen it."
EU justice and home affairs ministers decided on 7 June to change the legal base for the rules governing the evaluation of Schengen from article 77 from the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU to article 70. This changes the Parliament's role from co-decision to information. Instead of the Parliament and the Commission being able to exercise their supervisory role on behalf of citizens on something that will affect everyone, member states will now be able to ignore the concerns and improvements they brings up. The decision was taken while negotiations with the other institutions were still ongoing.
EU institutions will not be able to scrutinise member states' border controls, which could increase the risk of abuse. Freedom of movement has always been one of the cornerstones of the EU.
It could also disrupt the Council's cooperation with the Commission and the Parliament as the decision was taken without consultation. This could make it more difficult to produce new EU legislation.
What the Parliament will do
The Parliament has invited the Danish Presidency to the plenary session in Strasbourg next week to discuss the decision. It will continue with the legal procedure on this draft legislation, including a vote by the civil liberties committee on the Schengen Governance Package in Strasbourg on Monday 11 June at 1900 CET. It will also look at what legal options are available, including asking the European Court of Justice to examine the decision.
Reactions political groups
Manfred Weber, the German vice-chairman of the EPP group, and Carlos Coelho, the Portuguese Christian-Democrat responsible for steering the proposal on the Schengen Evaluation Mechanism through Parliament, said: " With this decision, Parliament will no longer be included in the decision-making process. This would give rise to intransparent decisions by secretive bureaucrats and closed circles. "
Hannes Swoboda, the Austrian president of the S&D group, said: " This is not a mere legal quarrel between national governments and EU institutions. It is about the defence of a fundamental freedom for EU citizens."
Guy Verhofstadt, the Belgian president of the ALDE group, said: " All our fears and concerns just materialised. By taking this decision, the Council sent a clear signal, namely they will find any excuse to close the borders as they close ranks against us."
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the French co-president of the Greens/EFA group, said: "The Schengen border-free system is trans-national in its conception and purpose; it is therefore both logical and essential that any decision to temporarily reintroduce border controls be subject to EU-level approval and not left up to the narrow-minded, national whims of individual member states."