The citizen's right to move freely within the Schengen area has been strengthened by a deal struck by MEPs, Council and Commission negotiators on Wednesday evening. For the first time, inspection teams will be able to make unannounced visits to internal borders to halt any attempt to impose illegal border checks. Free movement is the most positive outcome of 50 years of EU integration, said 62% of respondents to a recent Eurobarometer survey.
The "Schengen governance package" comprises two regulations: one establishing a new EU-based Schengen evaluation mechanism to deal with critical situations and the other amending the Schengen Borders Code to lay down common rules on temporarily reintroducing checks at internal borders in exceptional cases.
"The European Parliament has again reaffirmed the priority of free movement within the Schengen area whilst reinforcing citizens' safety. We now have a genuine evaluation system that can detect security risks accurately, effectively, impartially and transparently, and hence also help to resolve them. It will rely on the vigilance of the European Commission, the right of inspectors to make unannounced visits to internal borders, the help of specialised agencies such as FRONTEX, and proper information for, and democratic control by, the European Parliament", said the rapporteur on the new Schengen evaluation mechanism, Carlos Coelho (EPP, PT).
"I am satisfied that we have secured clear rules, together with checks and balances, for last resort cases in which controls have to be reimposed at Schengen internal borders. My key aim was to ensure that the European Commission and the European Parliament are involved and informed, whenever such critical situations arise. I strongly believe that free movement within Schengen area borders must be safeguarded, as a core EU value", said the rapporteur on the temporary reintroduction of border controls, Renate Weber (ALDE, RO).
The Schengen governance package is expected to be voted by the full House in June or July.
The Schengen area comprises the territory of 22 EU member states (all except the UK, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania) and four non-EU states (Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland).