This Tuesday, December 14, the European Commission proposed updated rules to reinforce the governance of the Schengen area by a Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council amending Regulation (EU) 2016/399 on a Union Code on the rules governing the movement of persons across borders. Reason behind? The effects of the global pandemic caused by Covid-19 and the migratory crises created the need and emergency to review the internal and external borders of the Schengen area.


The purpose is to give the Member States greater flexibility to manage both internal and external borders while at the same time trying to guarantee good cooperation between the Member States and the EU, to face emergencies and challenges in a more coordinated and efficient manner.


Many events raised the alarm that it is essential to review the scope of the Schengen area. The EU fears reliving past events that cast doubt on the effectiveness of the Schengen space and have learned great lessons from the migration and refugee crises, terrorist attacks, the instrumentalization of immigrants as a political attack on the EU and the health crisis caused by the Covid-19.


The EU must ensure that the Member States have the necessary means to respond quickly, coordinated, efficient and effective to similar situations.


What new mechanisms are proposed?


The quick creation of binding rules setting out temporary travel restrictions at the external borders in case of a threat to public health.


This will help to ensure a uniform response and common effects for all EU citizens when restricting free movement without receiving differential treatment.


 The Council should authorize controls at the internal borders of the Member States and the external borders of the EU in the event of a common threat.


Intending to control those decisions adopted by the Member States individually and that in many cases cause significant damage to the single market, economy, fundamental rights and principles protected by European law.


These rules also include a specific period for the duration of border controls.


In the case of unforeseen events, Member States can introduce controls unilaterally for 30 days, extendable for up to 3 months. But in the case of foreseeable circumstances, border controls can last up to 6 months, renewable. Still, in all cases, temporary border controls should not exceed a total period of 2 years, except in specific circumstances.


Promoting alternatives to the internal borders check by creating a more structured procedure for any reintroduction of internal border controls, with more safeguards, limiting the impact of internal border checks on border regions and addressing unauthorized movements within the Schengen area.


With these alternatives, they are trying to ensure that each Member State studies the impact these measures may have on the fundamental rights and the guarantees of the European citizens before taking measurements that affect the right to free movement. 


However, Member States shall act consistently with the idea that retracting the right of the free movement should be the last alternative; they have to look for another less restrictive measure. 



What changes will occur in the EU asylum and return rules


To avoid making the same mistakes again due to how the Member States have treated refugees during the pandemic and how the asylum applications have been paralyzed, violating the rights of refugees, these new rules, under the proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council addressing situations of instrumentalization in the field of migration and asylum, attempt to extend the registration deadline for asylum applications up to four weeks and to examine all asylum applications at the border. 


In cooperation and collaboration with the EU, the Member States should continue guaranteeing adequate access to the asylum procedure. 


In addition, they should give more facilities to humanitarian organizations that assist refugees.


Effects the EU Police Cooperation code on these new Schengen rules


The European Commission proposed the EU Police Cooperation code on December 8 2021. The need to replace internal border controls with effective and efficient operational police checks was already stated. 


In short, since the restrictions due to the Covid-19 have begun, we have always been sure that the fact that each Member State could take measures that affect EU citizens in general and fundamental rights guaranteed in our treaties, without a uniform control of the measures, can put our rights, principles and freedoms in danger. We have consistently defended the need for a coordinated response against shared threats because, for a common problem, a common fight is needed.



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