Fabian Demicoli

Commission told to tighten Schengen rules

 The leaders of France and Italy are putting pressure on the European Commission to agree more powers for member states to impose national border controls in the face of an influx of refugees from north Africa. They said that work the Commission has been preparing on Schengen has "to materialise and be intensified rapidly". They also called for "new measures".

 

An emergency meeting of national interior ministers has been scheduled for 12 May to discuss the implications for EU migration policy of the uprisings in the Arab world and the potential influx of migrants to the EU.

France wants to allow national border controls to be re-introduced selectively and to expand the conditions under which these checks could be reinstated. At present, this can only be done temporarily, for reasons of "public order", and requires member states to notify the Commission.

A spokesperson for the Commission yesterday acknowledged the need to clarify and review the Schengen rules "in order to apply them more correctly and more easily and in a spirit of better co-operation between the member states".

One diplomat predicted "hard and painful" negotiations among the EU's member states  about changing the Schengen rules, while another said countries such as Austria, Germany and the Netherlands were in favour of strengthening national controls over the EU's internal borders.

Sarkozy and Berlusconi want changes to the Schengen rules agreed in principle at a summit of the EU's national leaders on 24 June.

The two leaders issued their call on Tuesday after meeting in Rome to resolve a row over an influx of around 25,000 Tunisian migrants given temporary residency by Italy and thereby the freedom to travel across the Schengen area.

France, the preferred destination of  many, denied them entry and set up ad hoc checks on trains arriving from Italy.

MEPs have raised concerns that modifying Schengen would undo the achievement of creating a border-free travel area for more than 400 million citizens and play into the hands of anti-immigration groups.

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