By Keerthana Chavaly
The Schengen Agreement may be in danger due to the rising tide of opposition to border-free zones. Germany and France, nations that are party to the agreement, have called for the reintroduction of border controls for as long as four years in the passport-free Schengen zone. This proposition has also been backed by Austria, Denmark and Norway.
Border control for security
As of now, internal border controls can be instated for as long as ten days, which can be extended to a maximum period of two months for reasons of national security or public policy. In situations where threats are considered to be foreseeable, border control can be maintained for up to six months. In exceptional cases, an extension of two years is allowed. France and Germany want to extend this period of two years to four years because of an increased number of terrorist threats and attacks taking place in Europe. The draft for a change in rules stated, “We call on the (European) commission to submit draft legislation aimed at amending the provisions…to allow member states to reintroduce internal border controls for periods longer than currently provided for”.
Travel in the Schengen
The Schengen Agreement, named after the town it was signed in 1985 in Luxembourg, came into effect in 1995, before the countries that were members of the European Union could agree on the forms of border control. Currently, there are 26 countries that are part of the Schengen Agreement, four of which are not members of the European Union.
Two important nations that are not a part of this agreement are UK and Ireland. UK has instated its own forms of border control while Ireland has a special border agreement with the UK called the Common Travel Area.
The agreement essentially involves free travel through member states as travellers within the Schengen area will not need a visa. There is a single external border—it removes the existence of internal borders between countries. Apart from this main provision, the agreement also allows for collective efforts to reduce drug-related crimes and provides common rules on asylum. It contains a list of countries whose citizens need visas to travel in the Schengen area. It allows the police to catch criminals from different member countries and allows for common databases among police departments under the Schengen Information System.
Against the opposition
In response to the call for a change in rules of the agreement, European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs, Dimitris Avramopoulos said, “The commission recognises that new security challenges have appeared in the past years, as demonstrated by the recent terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Turku”. He also admitted that the current rules of the agreement “may not be sufficiently adapted to address the evolving challenges”. Meanwhile, Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker defended Schengen, stating “it’s true that occasionally terrorists do benefit from (Schengen), but the prime beneficiaries are European citizens”.
Currently, France, Norway, Germany, Austria, Denmark and Sweden are countries in the Schengen area that have reinstated border control.
Recent terrorist attacks in Europe have increased pressure on the Agreement, which has already come under criticism by nationalists and Eurocentrists that it allows criminals and terrorists to enter Europe easily. The attacks in Paris, France and the migrant crisis – when approximately a million refugees from Syria sought to enter Europe – has put the future of the agreement in question.
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