Tag Archives: Schengen

#SOTEU: EU migration Pact slow motion

Strasbourg 15.09.2021 “… Look at what happened at our borders with Belarus. The regime in Minsk has instrumentalised human beings. They have put people on planes and literally pushed them towards Europe’s borders” the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said, while addressing the European Parliament Plenary in Strasbourg.

“This can never be tolerated. And the quick European reaction shows that. And rest assured, we will continue to stand together with Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.

“And, let’s call it what it is: this is a hybrid attack to destabilise Europe”.

“These are not isolated events. We saw similar incidents at other borders. And we can expect to see it again. This is why, as part of our work on Schengen, we will set out new ways to respond to such aggression and ensure unity in protecting our external borders. But as long as we do not find common ground on how to manage migration, our opponents will continue to target that.

“Meanwhile, human traffickers continue to exploit people through deadly routes across the Mediterranean.

“These events show us that every country has a stake in building a European migration system. The New Pact on Migration and Asylum gives us everything we need to manage the different types of situations we face.
All the elements are there. This is a balanced and humane system that works for all Member States – in all circumstances. We know that we can find common ground.

“But in the year since the Commission presented the Pact, progress has been painfully slow.
I think, this is the moment now for a European migration management policy. So I urge you, in this House and in Member States, to speed up the process.

“This ultimately comes down to a question of trust. Trust between Member States. Trust for Europeans that migration can be managed. Trust that Europe will always live up to its enduring duty to the most vulnerable and most in need.

“There are many strongly held views on migration in Europe but I believe the common ground is not so far away. Because if you ask most Europeans, they would agree that we should act to curb irregular migration but also act to provide a refuge for those forced to flee.”

“They would agree that we should return those who have no right to stay. But that we should welcome those who come here legally and make such a vital contribution to our society and economy”.

“And we should all agree that the topic of migration should never be used to divide. I am convinced that there is a way that Europe can build trust amongst us when it comes to migration”.

Spain welcomes vaccinated tourists

Brussels 07.06.2021 The Spanish government has published the new requisites for travellers arriving in the country from outside the European Union and countries associated with the Schengen free-travel area. (Image: Valencia, Spain).

As was expected, the text released in the Official State Gazette (BOE) on Saturday states that from today, passengers from risk zones will be permitted to enter Spain if they have been administered the full doses of a Covid-19 vaccine approved by either the World Health Organisation (WHO) or the European Medicines Agency (EMA), more than 14 days prior to arrival.

No proof of vaccination, recovery or diagnostic test will be required from tourists from low-risk zones, said the government in a release, although everyone will still have to fill out the travel form available on Spain Travel Health (SpTH).

Once the European Union’s Digital Covid-19 pass goes into effect on July 1, this will also enable travellers to prove their immunity to the coronavirus if they are required to.

“At ports and airports there will be two control points. Whoever comes from countries or zones not included on the list of risk zones will have access to a quick control with the QR code obtained from SpTH. And once the EU Digital Covid-19 certificate goes into effect, whoever has this document will also have access to this quick control,” says the government statement.

Hungary migration position unchanged

Since 2015, the stance of the Hungarian Government on migration has been clear and unchanged. We have presented this stance and our proposals on several occasions” writes Zoltan Kovacs, the Secretary of State for International Communication and Relations, International spokesman, Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister Victor Orban.

We believe that the European Union and its member states must cooperate in keeping the looming migration pressure outside our borders. To this end, we should form alliances with countries of origin, so that they are able to provide proper living standards and ensure that their people do not have to leave their homelands. Instead of importing the trouble to Europe, we must bring help to where it is needed.
We believe that Europe’s borders must be protected: External hot-spots will have to be established to process asylum claims; we must ensure that the external borders of the EU and the Schengen Area remain perfectly sealed along all sections.

“Our goal is to see EU member states support each other in achieving the tasks above. While Hungary does not support obligatory distribution, it does defend joint borders, and we expect to receive the same amount of support as other Schengen states protecting those external borders. We would like to remind everyone that since the 2015 migration crisis, the Hungarian Government has spent more than 1 billion euros on protecting the borders of Hungary and the European Union, without a single cent of contribution from Brussels”.

EU encourages lifting Schengen controls

European Commission issued a statement on travel restrictions in which it “strongly encourages the remaining member states to finalise the process of lifting the internal border controls and restrictions to free movement within the EU by 15 June 2020.”

The EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, insisted on the recommendation that internal borders must “reopen as soon as possible.” But she added that the main thing is for everyone to open internal borders completely before opening the EU’s external ones to third-country travelers.

While Germany, France and Belgium have said that they will lift travel restrictions on June 15, Spain is still preventing full mobility between its own regions. This situation is due to end by June 22, when the state of alarm declared to fight the Covid-19 epidemic expires.

The EU Commission said it is aware that coordination issues will not be easy. “We understand that reopening on Monday for countries that have not yet decided to do so could be complicated, and that some might take an extra week or two,” Johansson added.

Schengen area restriction prolongation

Today the Commission invited Schengen Member States and Schengen Associated States to extend the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU for another 30 days, until 15 June. While some EU and Schengen Associated States are taking preliminary steps towards easing the measures for fighting the spread of the pandemic, the situation remains fragile both in Europe and worldwide. This calls for continued measures at the external borders to reduce the risk of the disease spreading through travel to the EU. The lifting of travel restrictions should be phased: as underlined in the Joint European Roadmap on lifting containment measures, internal border controls will need to start being lifted gradually and in a coordinated manner before restrictions at the external borders can be relaxed in a second stage.

:“The overall objective of limiting the spread of coronavirus via reduced social interaction remains. Despite progress in many European countries, the situation worldwide is very fragile. It is imperative that any action taken is gradual, with different measures being lifted in different phases” Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said.

“We need a phased and coordinated approach. Restoring the normal functioning of the Schengen area of free movement is our first objective as soon as the health situation allows it. Restrictions on free movement and internal border controls will need to be lifted gradually before we can remove restrictions at the external borders and guarantee access to the EU for non-EU residents for non-essential travel” Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson underlined.

The travel restriction, as well as the invitation to extend it, applies to the ‘EU+ area’, which includes all Schengen Member States (including Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania) and the 4 Schengen Associated States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) – 30 countries in total. The Commission calls for a continued coordinated approach to the prolongation, as action at the external borders can only be effective if implemented by all EU and Schengen States at all borders, with the same end date and in a uniform manner.

The Commission will continue to assist Member States in implementing the restriction on non-essential travel to the EU, including through regular videoconference meetings with Home Affairs Ministers. Any further prolongation of the travel restriction beyond 15 June 2020 would need to be assessed again, based on the evolution of the epidemiological situation.

The Commission invited Heads of State or Government on 16 March 2020 to introduce a temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU for an initial period of 30 days. On 8 April, the Commission called for prolonging the travel restriction until 15 May. All EU Member States (except Ireland) and non-EU Schengen countries have since taken national decisions to implement and prolong this travel restriction.

To assist Member States, the Commission presented on 30 March 2020 guidance on how to implement the temporary travel restriction, facilitate repatriations from across the world, and deal with those compelled to stay in the EU longer than they are authorised to as a result of travel restrictions.

The travel restriction does not apply to EU citizens, citizens of non-EU Schengen countries and their family members, and non-EU nationals who are long-term residents in the EU for the purpose of returning home. In addition, to limit to the minimum the impact of the restriction on the functioning of our societies, Member States should not apply the restrictions to specific categories of travellers with an essential function or need. Essential staff, such as doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, researchers and experts helping to cope with the coronavirus, as well as persons carrying goods, frontier workers and seasonal agricultural workers, should also continue to be allowed to enter the EU.

MEPs to debate Schengen future

Members of European Parliamennt (MEPs) will debate with Commissioner Johansson on issues of the future of the border-free Schengen zone, common migration and asylum policy and security in the context of the pandemic.

In a debate in the Civil Liberties Committee on Thursday afternoon, MEPs will try to clarify how the Commission plans to ensure that temporary controls on the internal borders, reintroduced following the COVID-19 outbreak, are lifted in a coordinated manner. In a plenary resolution adopted on 17 April, the Parliament stressed that “border controls and restrictions on movement must remain proportionate and exceptional… all freedom of movement should be re-established as soon as it is deemed feasible.”

The much-awaited proposal on a new Pact for Asylum and Migration will also be raised with Ylva Johansson, as well as the situation of migrants and refugees at the EU’s external borders and on the main migration routes.

MEPs will also look at the general security situation in the EU, in relation to the pandemic. In a report published in March, Europol warned that criminals are already adapting their modus operandi in view of COVID-19 and engaging in new criminal activities.

COVID19: EU roadmap out of crisis

The Commission, in cooperation with the President of the European Council, has put forward a European roadmap to phase-out the containment measures due to the coronavirus outbreak.

While we are still in firefighting mode, the necessary extraordinary measures taken by Member States and the EU are working. They have slowed down the spread of the virus and saved thousands of lives. However, these measures and the corresponding uncertainty come at a dramatic cost to people, society and the economy, and cannot last indefinitely,” said president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

Saving lives and protecting Europeans from the coronavirus is our number one priority. At the same time, it is time to look ahead and to focus on protecting livelihoods. Even though conditions in the Member States still vary widely, all Europeans rightly ask themselves when and in what order the confinement measures can be lifted. Responsible planning on the ground, wisely balancing the interests of protection of public health with those of the functioning of our societies, needs a solid foundation. That’s why the Commission has drawn up a catalogue of guidelines, criteria and measures that provide a basis for thoughtful action. The strength of Europe lies in its social and economic balance. Together we learn from each other and help our European Union out of this crisis

For the European Union, the re-opening of the Schengen area remains a sensitive issue. Until the end of February, the World Health Orgqnisation (WHO) continued “to advise against the application of travel or trade restrictions to countries experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks,” despite the rapid spread of the disease.

COVID19: Schengen area in question

Today the Civil Liberties Committee Chair, Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES) issued a statement on the reintroduction of border controls at some Schengen internal borders due to coronavirus.

In the last days, several EU member states have reintroduced border controls at their internal borders within the Schengen area or even closed them for certain categories of travellers while some further member states are considering such measures.

https://twitter.com/jflopezaguilar/status/1239490433132224512?s=21

“As Chair of Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee, while I fully share the need for public policy measures restricting social interaction to slow down the spread of the Coronavirus, I urge member states to take their measures in full respect of the principles of proportionality and, above all, solidarity among EU Member States, non-discrimination and the applicable Schengen rules. It is key that when taking measures no discrimination is made between EU citizens.

“It is only through a coordinated approach, rather than actions taken by individual Member States, that we will be successful in addressing the challenge we are all facing.

“The Civil Liberties committee is closely monitoring the situation and expects the Commission, the Council Presidency and the member states to protect all benefits of the Schengen area.”

Image: border control, source: social media.

Gibraltar considers joining Schengen

Gibraltar is considering to joint the Schengen free movement area in a gesture of guranteeing the fluidity on its border with Spain after the UK left the European Union, the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said.

Picardo remarks, made in an interview with AFP came just two weeks before Britain and Gibraltar formerly leave the bloc and enter into an 11-month period of intense negotiations to shape the future the UK-EU relationship.

“We talked about this issue before Brexit… about Gibraltar becoming part of the Schengen zone,” Picardo said.

The British enclave at the soutern point of Iberian peninsula, Gibraltar modus operandi counts on 28,000 crossings daily, and preserving it will be one of the central elements to talks when the transition period begins on February 1.

Macron proposes Schengen revision

Schengen Agreement should be revised, French President Emmanuel Macron  said , suggesting a number of countries should possibly be excluded from it. H also stressed the necessary to completely restructure the development policy and migration policy.

“The famous Schengen agreement… no longer works… Europe [that I believe in] keeps its borders, protects them, in this Europe there is a reasonable right to refugee status, and responsibility accompanies solidarity… It is on this basis that it is necessary to reform the Schengen area,” Macron proposed a press conference, saying that after the revision there would be less states in the Schengen due to those member-states which “do not want to ensure common borders.

The proposal was put forward in the framework of the national “Grand Debate“.

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