Ahead of a meeting of Home Affairs’ Ministers on Friday, the S&D Group called for a fully-functioning Schengen Area of free movement to be restored as soon as possible, with a more European response to ending border closures and the lifting of pointless border checks.
In a report on the Schengen area following the Covid-19 outbreak voted on later today, the civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee will call for an urgent discussion between Council, Commission and Parliament on a recovery plan for Schengen.
After chaotic reactions from European governments when the pandemic hit, S&D MEPs want to see an EU level response to coming out of the crisis, with the European Commission playing a more coordinating role in safeguarding the Schengen Area without internal borders.
Juan Fernando López Aguilar, chair of the civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee, said:
“The Schengen area is one of the EU’s greatest achievements, with unrestricted travel benefitting European citizens and businesses alike. The nightmare that has been the Covid-19 pandemic risks being the end of Europe’s borderless dream.
“When the outbreak first hit, there was no effort whatsoever at coordinating an EU level response when it came to the question of border checks. Internal border checks in the Schengen area must be proportionate and only a last resort, established with objective criteria and limited in time.
“Now as the pandemic slows in Europe, we need to be clear: free travel must resume as safely as is possible. If there is no Schengen, there is no recovery. We urgently need a truly European response. We simply cannot afford facing the death of the Schengen area. Without a fully functional Schengen there will be neither be a recovery, nor a promising future for the EU.”
Tanja Fajon, S&D member and chair of LIBE Working Group on Schengen Scrutiny, said:
“The Schengen area has been left in a sorry state as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. Stopping the spread of the virus and restricting freedom of movement was always going to require a fine balance. However, the initial lack of coordination and insufficient justification provided by member states on their measures put the functioning of the Schengen area at serious risk.
“Going forward, the Commission, as guardian of the Treaties, must assume its role in coordinating border responses to avoid putting in place arrangements outside the Union framework, to make sure people’s rights to free movement are respected and to safeguard the principle of non-discrimination.
“It is essential for the member states to have more trust in each other, and equally we need to make sure the European Commission is capable of taking the reins to ensure a more effective response when it comes to the Schengen areas than we have seen up until now.”