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Inside Schengen Border Control: Rules under review

Inside Schengen Border Control: Rules under review
Traveling from Germany to France to Greece to Austria and most other European Union Countries without border controls may  be the dream of the past soon. EU officials have backed proposals on tightening European security rules, including extending emergency border control inside Schengen zone. The measures were sponsored by Germany and France, which both face crucial elections in 2017, with immigration a major issue.

“The persistence of the terrorist threat and the effectiveness of the currently [reinstated] border controls at [the EU’s] internal borders demonstrate the need to review the Schengen Borders Code… in the event of a serious threat to the public order or internal security,” German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and his French counterpart, Bruno Le Roux, wrote in a joint letter on Monday detailing the proposals.

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The letter written in Berlin addresses the First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans as well as the EU Home Affairs and Security Commissioners Dimitris Avramopoulos and Julian King, respectively.

The two ministers particularly proposed to let the EU member-states reinstate border controls for the “longer periods than those currently foreseen” as well as to “relax” the regulations that concern the member states’ right to impose national border checks inside the 26-nation Schengen zone, AFP reports, citing the text of the letter it has seen.

The current Schengen rules allow the countries to maintain national border controls due to serious security reasons for no longer than two years. The ministers argued that the existing exemption periods should be extended and the border checks should be allowed under “more normal” circumstances if necessary.

The proposals also include suggestions for closer cooperation and data sharing between the EU member states. Some other ideas presented in the letter concerned cooperation in tracking of movements of terrorism suspects as many suspected militants, who arrived in Europe, have crossed many European borders since their first entry.

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Flowers and candles are placed near the Christmas market at Breitscheid square in Berlin, Germany, December 23, 2016 © Hannibal Hanschke

The letter also urges rapid implementation of agreements concerning the exchange of the airline passenger data between the EU states and systematic checks of identities of not just the newly arrived foreigners but also the EU citizens and migrants, who have lived in Europe for a long time.

On Wednesday, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said he welcomed the proposals and added that they are “in line” with the Commission’s approach to the matter, as reported by Reuters.

The ministers see their proposals as a way to preserve Schengen rules and as an answer to the rhetoric exploited by some European politicians, who score points on the issue of threat posed by little-controlled immigration.

“Security and freedom are two sides of the same coin. Instead of relying on catchy populist slogans, we should continue, and deepen, the ongoing work on internal security to better protect European citizens,” they said, as cited by Reuters.

France has recently received the green light for a reestablishment of controls at its borders until mid-July due to a persistent terrorist threat, AFP reports.

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