Austria, France, Germany, Denmark and Norway have called on Brussels to extend the length of time members of the passport-free Schengen area can reintroduce border controls from two to four years.
“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,” according to an unofficial document seen by POLITICO.
At the peak of the migration crisis in September 2015, five countries — Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, which is not in the EU — reintroduced internal border controls to stem the flow of refugees and asylum seekers. In May, the countries were authorized to extend the controls until mid-November.
France, which reintroduced border controls in November 2015 in response to the heightened terrorist threat, is scheduled to keep them in place until the end of October.
With the migration crisis arguably under control, the threat of terrorism is reason enough to maintain border controls in some cases, the countries said.
“This [time] limitation does not match the needs in the context of a long-term terrorist threat,” according to the document, which stressed that the reintroduction of internal border controls is essential to strengthening “the area’s capacity to cope with crisis situations.”
Currently, internal border controls can be reintroduced in exceptional circumstances at some border checks for a period of up to six months. These can be prolonged for additional six month periods, up to a maximum duration of two years.
The document proposes to extend this maximum duration to four years “where there are exceptional circumstances.”
Speaking to reporters ahead of a meeting of interior ministers Thursday, Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European commissioner for migration and home affairs, said there was no reason for countries to extend border controls in the Schengen area.
“The main reasons, justified reasons … for prolongation of the internal border controls are not there anymore,” Avramopoulos said. “I believe it’s the moment to go back to the normal functioning of Schengen.”
The Commission is expected to make an assessment of the request at the end of September.
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