Migration should not be used as a reason to reintroduce internal border checks in the Schengen area, according to the civil liberties committee (LIBE). Members voted on 25 April in favour of a report stating that internal border controls should be used as a last resort only. The report by Romanian Liberal-Democrat Renate Weber also calls on member states to consult with the Commission and other member states before taking any action. We asked Ms Weber to tell us more about it.
How do you feel about the result of the LIBE vote?
It is a very strong mandate for negotiating with the Council. I'm very pleased about this. The support is for this idea that we all cherish: free movement within the Schengen area and we want to preserve it. The LIBE committee made it very clear we don't want to allow other extraordinary circumstances but those that exist at the moment. For example, we will not agree with having migration considered as a threat to national security to allow the reintroduction of border controls. My colleagues also almost unanimously agreed with the idea of having this collective/community approach when deciding to reintroduce border controls, because member states will have to consult with the Commission and with affected member states when taking the decision.
Are you concerned that member states could unilaterally reestablish internal border controls to the detriment of the single market and EU citizens' freedom of movement unless the Commission draws up common guidelines?
It's not only what one member state believes, but also how it affects the other member states. This is why this type of community approach is so normal. We are in this together and we have to work together and consult before doing things.
If we convince the Council to go along with our lines, that means that in every circumstance a member state would be obliged to discuss it with the Commission and the other member states before taking any decision and see in fact if this is the most appropriate decision. The only exception is of course when there are unpredictable and unforeseen circumstances such as a terrorist threat. In such circumstance the member state has ten days to reintroduce border controls but afterwards it has to apply the same consultation procedure .
What sort of threat do you feel would warrant temporarily reintroducing internal borders?
We mentioned in the report that it has to be a serious and imminent threat. We don't want someone to take such a radical decision on the impression that something may arise. The reintroduction of border controls is the last resort. Normally member states should be able to handle all these situations within the normal democratic mechanisms.
Apart from the Parliament, the Council will also have to approve the Commission proposal on common rules on the temporary reintroduction of border controls at internal borders in exceptional circumstances.