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MEPs gathered in Strasbourg overwhelmingly voted in favour of a 'Resolution on changes to Schengen', put forward jointly by all major political groupings: the centre-right European People's Party, the Socialists & Democrats, the liberal ALDE and the Greens/EFA groups.
The Parliament states its opinion that "any new exemptions from the current rules, such as new grounds for reintroducing border controls on an 'exceptional' basis, would definitely not reinforce the Schengen system".
Instead, MEPs take the view that the existing system is sufficiently reliable, asking the Commission to table an initiative making its application more strict.
EU-based Schengen evaluation mechanism needed
In fact, MEPs want the new Schengen evaluation mechanism to be made into an EU system.
"The new Schengen evaluation system should be more Community-oriented, based on a European approach and with the involvement of the EU institutions, as opposed to a purely intergovernmental one," said Portuguese MEP Carlos Coelho (EPP), the Parliament's rapporteur on the mechanism.
The new Schengen evaluation mechanism currently being discussed within parliament will be part of the answer to current problems, insofar as it "ensures effective monitoring of any attempt to introduce illegal internal border controls and reinforces mutual trust".
MEPs also mention that the effectiveness of the evaluation mechanism lies in the possibility of sanctions in the event that deficiencies persist and jeopardise the overall security of the Schengen area.
The new Schengen evaluation system will also make it possible to request and obtain support for its members in the event of exceptional pressure on the EU's external borders.
The Parliament also "strongly regrets" attempts "by several member states" to reintroduce border controls. On 4 July Denmark reintroduced border controls, in what its authorities said was a bid to halt illegal goods.
MEPs take the view that the recent problems with Schengen are rooted in a reluctance to implement common European policies in other fields, most crucially a common European asylum and migration system. In their view, such a policy would include tackling irregular immigration and fighting organised crime.
The European Parliament strongly insists that the creation of the Schengen area and the integration of the Schengen acquis into the EU framework is one of the greatest achievements of the European integration process. This is "one of the pillars of EU citizenship and one of the foundations of the EU as an area of freedom, security and justice," they stress.
MEPs deplore the "double standards" that have blocked the accession to the Schengen space of Bulgaria and Romania. The two EU countries have met the technical criteria, but are prevented from joining the border-free area due to obstruction mainly from the Netherlands.
Without naming any particular country, MEPs regret that "high demands are placed on all candidate countries while those countries already belonging to the Schengen area are treated very complacently".