The Civil Liberties Committee emphasises that the temporary checks on Schengen borders need to be lifted in a coordinated manner as soon as conditions allow.
In a debate on the current situation of the temporary Schengen border closures reintroduced following the COVID-19 outbreak, MEPs highlighted that freedom of movement is essential for the EU and that a fully functioning Schengen area needs to be restored to allow citizens to move across borders again.
Tanja Fajon (S&D, SI), the Chair of the LIBE Working Group on Schengen Scrutiny, said: “Schengen has never been at such great risk: during the pandemic it has almost completely disappeared. Countries rushed to close down their borders without much coordination. It is now crucial that we fully restore Schengen as soon as conditions allow and without any discrimination between EU citizens. European coordination is therefore essential.”
Terezija Gras, Croatian State Secretary for European and International Affairs, and Monique Pariat, Commission Director-General for Migration and Home Affairs, highlighted that all border control measures need to be proportionate, non-discriminatory and applied in a coordinated manner. The Commission will present guidelines tomorrow on lifting the border checks through a phased and coordinated approach, first on the internal borders and then on the external borders.
Many MEPs demanded clarifications on how the Commission aims to ensure the respect of non-discrimination when the border checks are lifted and expressed concern over bilateral agreements between member states. They suggested that lessons should be drawn from the situation to consider new legislation or changes to current Schengen rules. MEPs also called for Croatia’s accession to Schengen after the Commission positively assessed the country’s application.
The debate is intended to feed into a resolution on the situation in the Schengen area, which the plenary is expected to vote on in June.
Listen to the full debate here.