On the eve of the EU interior ministers meeting, Denmark announced
that it would reinstate control booths on its borders with Germany
and Sweden within weeks.
EU interior ministers met in Brussels for an extraordinary meeting on Thursday to discuss Commission plans to reinstate border checks under “exceptional circumstances,” such as when a member state fails to protect its own borders.
Denmark’s centre-right government on Tuesday agreed to introduce border controls at its ports and airports, as well as along its only land border with Germany and its bridge to Sweden. The European Commission asked for additional information and said it would not accept any roll-back of the Schengen treaty, EurActiv informs.
The European Union’s executive – which enforces the Schengen treaty – said it would request further details from the Danish authorities in order to assess the controls. “It should be clear that the [European] Commission cannot and will not accept any attempt to roll back the EU treaty, either for free movement of goods or persons at internal borders,” spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen said in a statement.
Presenting its proposals last week, the European Commission insisted border controls would have to be temporary and subject to “specific and clearly defined criteria” agreed at EU level. Schengen allows for the temporary reimposition of border controls in special cases to ensure public order.
This week the European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, said such measures should be “exceptions” and “an absolute last resort”. According to the BBC, he said freedom of movement, enshrined by Schengen, was one of the EU’s essential foundations.
A joint letter by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi prompted the Schengen a discussion, VOA informs. The two leaders want the Schengen treaty to be modified. Italy has been the main country hit by the influx of North and sub-Saharan African migrants whose numbers surged following this year’s Arab Spring.
On 4 May the European Commission urged the EU to step up co-operation to deal with new migration pressures in the southern Mediterranean. More than 25,000 Africans have sailed to Italy and Malta in small, overcrowded boats this year to escape the turmoil in Libya and Tunisia.
EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom says tiny Malta is struggling with a disproportionately large number of refugees from North Africa and she will urge EU countries to resettle many of them.
The Schengen treaty abolished border controls within Europe and currently consists of 25 nations. Denmark has signed the Schengen agreement, but has kept its freedom not to apply certain measures.