The reintroduction of internal border controls in the Schengen area has been very high in the agenda of the European Council. Finally, it has been agreed to establish a mechanism to restore internal border checks in exceptional occasions but its implementation remains uncertain. There is no certainty either that the legislative process would modify Schengen rules and even if this could be implemented according to the strict conditions outlined in the Council conclusions. Nevertheless, there is great concern that the possibility of limiting and dismantling free movement has been voiced and accepted. This is a worrying perspective that deserves debate and monitoring. Other events related to intolerance and xenophobia have lately highlighted the need to stress some of the EU founding principles, particularly those related to freedom and living together.

Denmark has restored border controls with Germany and Sweden on 1st July despite of the concerns expressed by other European partners and the Commission. Customs control are permitted within a 20 km border zone and on a random basis, whereas permanent controls are banned. According to the Danish Government, customs control concern “the transports of objects like weapons and drugs, and are not identity or passport checks, or traditional border controls”.

The European Parliament reacted on 7th July: “There is no question of restoring identity checks at the intra-European borders in the Schengen area of free movement”. Freedom of movement is a fundamental right and a pillar of EU citizenship, and the Parliament has opposed to any new Schengen mechanism with a different objective than enhancing freedom of movement and reinforcing EU governance of the Schengen area. Furthermore, border control can only be introduced in a exceptional basis, and the influx of migrants and asylum seekers cannot be considered an additional ground for the reintroduction of border controls.

A mission of Commission’s experts assessed on 14-15 July in Denmark the impact of the reinstatement of customs control. The final decision on whether the Danish rules are in line with EU law on free movement of goods, services and persons will depend on how they are put into practice. The experts have concentrated on what is being controlled, the nature of the controls, the aim, frequency and location of controls on person and goods, the type of equipment used or planned and the potential impact on flows. After two days of inspection, experts pronounced themselves “unable to get sufficient justification from the Danish side for the intensification of the controls”. The Commission reserves the right to use its powers under the Treaty “should a violation of EU law become apparent in the course of further analysis”. On the other hand, the Polish Presidency has stated that the reinstatement of controls at internal borders could be impossible to put in place from the legal, organisational and financial points of view.

France was also trying to add a new criterion letting Member States to take national initiative to restore border controls for a limited period of time in case of sudden and massive influx of illegal immigrants. Paris seems to be quite isolated on this proposal, and most of Member States prefer better protection of external borders and the Schengen evaluation mechanism. Most Member States would like to rely mainly on co-decision in this respect.

Another controversial issue, the entry of Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen area will not be formally discussed until September.

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