BRUSSELS, Aug. 25 (UPI) — EU members seeking to restrict movement in the passport-free zone will need to gain permission from Brussels, an early draft of a new proposal indicates.
The draft of a new European Commission proposal was obtained by the Financial Times.
In it, the European Union proposes that any member state seeking to impose stepped-up border security within the passport-free Schengen Area for longer than five days will need to get permission from Brussels.
The move comes at a time when the EU is facing challenges to the freedoms of the Schengen zone, mainly coming from Northern European countries following the arrival of thousands of North African refugees fleeing the upheavals of the Arab Spring.
The newspaper reported the proposal would tighten the EU’s controls on member states’ latitude to institute separate passport requirements — a first since the Schengen Area was instituted in 1995.
Reportedly among its provisions is a new maximum time limit of six months for any unilateral border actions, as well as review checks every 30 days, something sure to be opposed by national governments.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has demanded changes to the free travel regime after tens of thousands of Tunisian refugees landed in Italy and crossed into France in April, prompting Paris to send police reinforcements to its border and sparking a diplomatic row.
Italy granted 20,000 temporary visas to travel freely in the Schengen Area and insisted Europe needed to share the burden but France responded by refusing to let Tunisian migrants cross the border — even temporarily suspending a rail link between the countries.
In Germany, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann threatened to stop the refugees by invoking his regional powers to impose restrictions on the German-Austrian border, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Brussels this month for the first time gave its approval under an “exceptional circumstance” to Spain allowing it to block an influx of Romanian migrants on the grounds they would flood the country’s already hard-hit labor market.
The move reflected fears that the European debt crisis and resulting austerity measures in struggling nations will spark waves of migration northward, The New York Times reported.
Northern European critics say “false asylum-seekers” from Serbia are using the passport-free zone to seek residence there and, as a result, Belgrade could face the suspension of its full privileges under Schengen — a potential blow to its hopes of joining the EU.
The same problem exists in Macedonia. Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikola Poposki said this week the Balkans nation is doing all it can to stop the flow of asylum-seekers from within its borders.
The country promised “active cooperation with the EU member states/Schengen countries and the European Commission” in a bid to “reduce and contain the number of asylum seekers, as well as maintaining it at a low level.”
Brussels’ new proposal would have to be approved by the European Parliament before becoming law.
In addition to its move against internal border controls, the measure also has a separate mechanism meant to strengthen the EU’s external borders.
There, it would tighten checkpoint inspections and warns countries that repeatedly fail to control illegal immigration could be bounced from the Schengen Area, the Financial Times said.