Luxembourg, 10 June 2022
As part of the work carried out under the French presidency to reform and strengthen the Schengen area in the face of new challenges, the Council today adopted its general approach on the reform of the Schengen borders code.
This reform: (i) provides new tools to combat the instrumentalisation of migrant flows; (ii) establishes a new legal framework for external border measures in the event of a health crisis, drawing on the lessons learned from the experience with COVID-19; (iii) updates the legal framework for reintroducing internal border controls in order to safeguard the principle of free movement while responding to persistent threats; (iv) introduces alternative measures to these controls.
The general approach now enables the Council to start negotiations with the European Parliament, once the Parliament has adopted its own position.
The fight against the instrumentalisation of migration flows
The text defines the instrumentalisation of migrants as a situation in which a third country or non-state actor encourages or facilitates the movement of third-country nationals towards the EU’s external borders or to a member state in order to destabilise the EU or a member state. It introduces new measures to combat this phenomenon, including limiting the number of crossing points at the external border or limiting their opening hours, and intensifying border surveillance.
External border measures in the event of a health crisis
The text provides for the possible swift adoption of binding minimum rules on temporary travel restrictions at the external borders in the event of a threat to public health. This will strengthen the currently available tools applied during the COVID-19 pandemic, which have been based on non-binding recommendations.
The binding implementing regulation to be adopted by the Council in such situations will include minimum restrictions, with the possibility for member states to apply stricter restrictions if the conditions so require. It will also include a list of essential travellers to be exempted from certain measures, which will be decided on a case by case basis.
Reintroduction of internal border controls
The text sets out more structured procedures for the reintroduction of internal border controls, with stronger safeguards. It takes into account a recent judgment by the European Court of Justice, which confirmed the principle of freedom of movement within the Schengen area, while specifying the conditions for the reintroduction of internal border controls. In this regard, it offers possible responses to persistent threats to public policy and internal security.
If a continued need for internal border controls is confirmed beyond two years and six months, the member state concerned will need to notify the Commission of its intention to further prolong internal border controls, providing justification for doing so and specifying the date on which it expects to lift controls. The Commission will then issue a recommendation, also relating to that date, and with regard to the principles of necessity and proportionality, to be taken into account by the member state.
Promotion of alternative measures
The text updates the Schengen borders code by providing for alternative measures to internal border controls, in particular by proposing a more effective framework for police checks in member states’ border regions.
The text introduces a new procedure to address unauthorised movements of irregular migrants within the EU. In the context of a bilateral cooperation framework based on voluntary action by the member states concerned, this mechanism will allow a member state to transfer third-country nationals apprehended in the border area and illegally staying in its territory to the member state from which they arrived, in the context of operational cross-border police cooperation.