Following the Commission’s adoption of the Recommendation for prolonging temporary internal border controls, Commissioner Avramopoulos intervened at the European parliament in Strasbourg to present the Commission point of view.
The responsible for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship underlined the important steps taken in the past months to strengthen and improve the management of the external borders of the EU, stressing that all efforts are designed to return to a normal functioning of the Schengen area: “Let me be clear on this: Our number one priority is and remains to safeguard Schengen, which is one of the greatest achievements of European Integration. All our efforts are working towards the same ultimate goal: To return to a normal functioning of Schengen, without internal border controls, as soon as possible.”
Avramopoulos recalled the launch of the European Border and Coast Guard, regretting that full operationalisation is not yet achieved. he also reminede that following a specific Commission request, the five Schengen States concerned have now provided factual information that shows a drop in the number of arrivals as well as in the number of asylum applications received. “However – he added – the exceptional circumstances justifying the reintroduction of internal border controls still persist.”
The Commission believes that a significant number of irregular migrants (about 60.000) still remains in Greece and could potentially move onwards to other Member States, if internal border controls are removed.
In addition, a number of elements that have been identified in the socalled dmap on Back to Schengen need more time to be fully implemented and sustained. The Commission is expecting the full operationalisation of the European Border and Coast Guard in the next three months and counts on a continued and sustained implementation of the EU-Turkey statement.
Moreover, Commissioner Avramopoulos informed the members of the European Parliament of the progresses towards the full application of the Dublin rules (notwithstanding the future reform of Dublin), whilst delivering on the commitments under the relocation schèmes.
“This is why – he said – the Commission proposes to prolong internal border controls at the same border crossings, as an exceptional measure and for a strictly limited period of an additional 3 months.”
This strictly limited extension is aimed at adjusting the current temporary internal controls to reflect the current needs, meaning that the controls should be carried out only to the necessary extent, and limited in their intensity to the absolute minimum required. This also means that, when during a given period there is not a significant flow, controls at certain border sections may then not even be necessary, and that the necessity of these controls should be re-evaluated regularly in cooperation with all the Member States affected with the objective of progressively reducing them.
“All our efforts, including this proposal, have only one objective: to further address all current migratory and security challenges so we can lift all internal border controls as soon as possible.”
In an effort to convince the Parliament of the well-funded reasoning of the Commission, the Greek Commissioner also added:
“We have put economic figures on the cost of not having Schengen. But the real, human and social cost of not having Schengen is far greater, if not immeasurable. The Commission and I personally are fully and indisputably committed to safeguarding this fundamentally European achievement that we should never take for granted. And make no mistake by our proposal today: we don’t take it for granted.
On the contrary, we are determined to work with Member States in bringing back Schengen to how it should be: free internal movement without border controls, together with a strong management of our external borders.”