EU to extend by three months border checks in visa-free travel area of Schengen

October 25, 2016 8:34 pm

A graffiti tag reads “Welcome” on a road sign for the Republic of Austria, an member state, during demonstrations of “No border” activists against Austria’s possible decision to close borders on refugees on May 7, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

The European Commission, the ’s executive arm, has moved to extend by three more months regulations requiring border controls in its visa-free travel area of Schengen.
The commission said on Tuesday that it was not yet on the position to restore full functioning with no border controls across the Schengen, recommending continued checks at the borders of Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and non-EU Norway for three months starting in November.
The European Commission was expected to allow the removal of the controls in Schengen, an area which includes 22 EU countries as well as Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, but it said a continued influx of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa into was the main reason for missing the target.
European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said in a statement that the border controls were needed to prevent secondary movements of “a significant number” of irregular refugees that still remained in Greece and in other member states.
“We are working hard to return to a normal functioning Schengen area as soon as possible, and we have made significant progress,” Timmermans said on the sidelines of a session of the European Parliament in the French city of Strasbourg, adding, “But we are not there yet.”
More than a million refugees crossed into Europe last year, most of them fleeing war in Syria and other countries. The bulk of the refugees used the Aegean Sea in the north of the Mediterranean to cross into Greece and then continue the journey toward Western Europe.
To save a crumble of Schengen, which underlies the EU’s unity, the continental bloc clinched a massive deal with Turkey in March enabling Greece, a bloc’s member, to send back refugees to Turkey for a future relocation through a more planned and organized system.
The EU statement on Tuesday said the Turkey deal had sharply reduced the number of people arriving from Syria and other countries, but said the extended checks at Schengen zone would give the five states more breathing room to cope with a large number of asylum requests over the last year.
The extension in border controls should gain the approval of the EU states to go into effect and many expect the move would face no concrete opposition in the bloc.
An EU commissioner said the three-month extension to border controls would be the last, vowing that Schengen could return to its normal functioning after the period.
“We believe that these three months will be the end of this period (of controls) and we shall be back normally to the full functioning of Schengen,” Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU home affairs commissioner, told a press conference on Tuesday.
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