France will impose border controls for climate talks

The French border at Menton, on the South coast of France. [Bobby Hidy/Flickr]

The French Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve has announced that France will re-establish border controls during the Paris Climate Conference (COP 21), which takes place from 30 November to 11 December. EURACTIV France reports

“We will establish border controls for a period of one month. This is in no way a suspension of Schengen […] which allows states to do this in particular circumstances,” Bernard Cazeneuve said on RMC and BFMTV on Friday (6 November). He insisted that the COP 21 met the criteria.

The interior minister cited “a risk of terrorist attack or public disturbance” to justify this measure, and denied any link with the migration crisis that has shaken Europe in recent months.

Closing the borders

“Just because we are suspending free movement for a few weeks by putting in place border controls, which are permitted under the Schengen agreement, it does not mean we are choosing a path which, faced with a major migration crisis, would call into question the principles of Schengen.”

>> Read: France contemplates border controls as rightists pillory Schengen

“France will close its borders for a few weeks […] just as other countries have done when organising the climate conference,” the minister stressed.

“What we have to make airtight, or at least control more effectively, are the European Union’s external borders. If we are unable to control them, we will not be able to host all the refugees that arrive in Europe in the long term, and we will be unable to maintain free movement inside” the Schengen area, he added.

Schengen area

The Schengen area, one of the most concrete achievements of the European Union, is a free movement zone where border controls for travellers have been abolished, in all but exceptional circumstances.

This area currently includes 26 European countries, including 22 EU member states (Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, Croatia, Ireland and the United Kingdom are not members) and four non-EU countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland).

>> Read: Commission approves German border controls, urges backing of migrant plan

Schengen members are allowed to establish temporary border controls in exceptional circumstances, when there is a “threat to public policy or national security”, or when “serious failures of the external borders pose a risk to the working of the Schengen area”, according to the European Commission.

Under these conditions, France has also re-established temporary border controls during G8 summits on its territory, as well as a NATO summit in Strasbourg in 2009. 

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