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EU Commission: back to Schengen?

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Back to Schengen: Commission proposes that the Council allows Member States to maintain temporary controls for another three months.

Brussels, 25 January 2017

The European Commission has today recommended the Council allows Member States to maintain the temporary controls currently in place at certain internal Schengen borders in Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway for a further period of three months.

Despite the progressive stabilisation of the situation and the implementation of a series of measures proposed by the Commission to better manage the external borders and protect the Schengen area, the Commission considers that the conditions of the “Back to Schengen” Roadmap allowing for a return to a normally functioning Schengen area have not yet been entirely fulfilled.

In the past months there has been important progress when it comes to securing and better managing the external borders and reducing irregular migration: With the new European Border and Coast Guard established since 6 October 2016, the means are being put in place to better protect the external borders of the EU and to react to new developments. With the establishment of the hotspot system, the registration and fingerprinting of migrants arriving in Greece and Italy has now reached a rate of almost 100%. The upcoming systematic checks against relevant databases for all people crossing the external border, as proposed by the Commission, will further contribute to strengthening the external borders. In addition, the EU-Turkey Statement has resulted in a significant decrease in the number of irregular migrants and asylum seekers arriving in the EU.

However, a significant number of irregular migrants and asylum seekers still remain in Greece and the situation remains fragile on the Western Balkans route, entailing a potential risk of secondary movements. Furthermore, despite important improvements in the management of the external borders, some of the actions identified by the “Back to Schengen” Roadmap require more time to be fully implemented and to deliver the expected results. As of February 2017, European Border and Coast Guard operations will assist Greece at the Northern Greek external border. The trend of steady delivery of results of the EU-Turkey Statement needs to be continued and the full application of the Dublin rules in Greece gradually restored as of mid-March. Despite important progress, ongoing work and the situation on the ground point towards the persistence of these exceptional circumstances. The Commission therefore finds it justified on a precautionary basis to allow the Member States concerned, and only after having examined alternative measures, to prolong the current limited internal border controls as an exceptional measure for a further limited period of three months under strict conditions. In particular, any such controls must be targeted and limited in scope, frequency, location and time to what is strictly necessary.

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