The Brief, powered by Eurogas – Schengen dies, the EU dies

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

The European Commission was pressed today with questions about Schengen, bringing back echoes of the words once uttered by Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos: “If Schengen dies, I’m afraid it will be the beginning of the end of Europe”. 

The issue is that the borderless EU space known as the Schengen area, considered as one of the biggest successes of the EU, is being dismantled, with member countries asking, one by one or in groups, to keep the border controls introduced during the most dramatic times of the refugee crisis.

Travel in the 26-country Schengen area – which includes 22 EU countries plus non-EU Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein – is normally free of border and passport controls.

Under current rules, Schengen states can reinstate ID checks at their borders with other zone members for six months when there is a perceived threat, extending that for up to two years in exceptional cases.

Of course, when the Schengen agreement was drafted, its authors were probably more concerned about football hooliganism and public disorder, than massive uncontrolled flows of refugees across the external borders of Schengen.

The Commission has repeatedly tried to remove the emergency border controls. It tried to return to normality last May, but Germany refused. Then the intention was to end Schengen controls in November, but it didn’t work either.

On 27 September, the Commission proposed to allow member states to exceptionally prolong controls over two years if the same threats persists. This is when Avramopoulos made this dramatic comment.

And yesterday Denmark announced that it would be extending its temporary border controls with Sweden and Germany, arguing that terrorists were taking advantage of the EU’s open borders.

The Commission announced that Denmark was not alone, and a similar “series of notifications” had arrived, mentioning Germany and France.

Reportedly, the German notification says internal controls would be needed until the external Schengen borders become reliable.

Germans have a talent for speaking clearly. The point is that in spite of certain festive announcements, the external border controls are not controlled, at least not by EU policies.

Member states guard the external borders by erecting fences, and in the Mediterranean, Italy has no other choice than to chase the NGO ships and bribe thugs in Libya to keep migrants at bay.  

If Schengen is still alive, it’s because some EU member states are doing the dirty work.

Gas – natural and renewable – has an innovation potential like no other fuel. Cutting-edge gas technologies such as power-to-gas and fuel cells provide solutions for creating the low-carbon energy world of the future. Register for the Eurogas Annual Conference “Renewable gas: balancing our energy”, October 27 in Brussels. #newgas4EU

The Roundup

Europe is not them, it’s us. Read our interview with Czech MEP Martina Dlabajová of ANO party, poised for winning this month’s elections in the republic, on migration policy, EU reform, and the importance of words.

Polish ambassador to Brussels resigns because his hands are being tied by Warsaw. Here is all the gossip.

The Balkans are a long way away from Brussels, or so people think: many surveyed citizens in Serbia and Kosovo have no hope that EU accession will ever happen.

Perhaps upset at Juncker’s state of the Union speech, Kosovo’s president tries to get EU visa-free travel for its citizens – by ensuring their access to Albanian citizenship.

Press freedom is suffering attacks around the bloc, with Romanian media suffering the latest hit. A new law proposes to dismiss media CEOs by a majority vote, if the wind so turns.

The EU is planning to build car batteries in the bloc to fend off competition from China and the US, in an Airbus-style consortium.

To finally get rid of that yellow vaccination booklet, we need to share vaccination records across the EU. But we need clear privacy rules to ensure individuals own their data, according to vaccines boss.

MEPs approve the Council’s proposal for energy efficient buildings – but miss an opportunity to include charging points for electric cars, according to Climate Commissioner Canete. The trilogue process will be a heated one – despite all the extra insulation.

It’s time for Germany to revamp its military spending in favour of a common European defence policy, argues Brussels -based think tank Friends of Europe.

Look out for…

Environment ministers meet tomorrow in Brussels to tackle the big elephant in the room: aviation’s role in reducing emissions (as well as forests and the upcoming COP23 in Bonn).

Views are the author’s

Share the Brief