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Schengen agreement must not be called into question


11 May 2011


Justice & Home Affairs

Debating a Commission plan to allow member states to temporarily reintroduce border controls in the Schengen area, GUE/NGL MEP Rui Tavares (Portugal) said that "we cannot and must not put Schengen to one side; this would be damaging to the European Union."


He reminded the house that the EU had already agreed on emergency measures for refugees last year. "Now, we're discussing the issue again. We got support for our demands at the time but now we're talking about how to distribute refugees who are arriving in Lampedusa and elsewhere while many of them are dying at sea."


Tavares stressed that we must decide now what we need to do with refugees in the future, how to handle the problem. "We cannot just simply decide to establish a "cordon humanitaire', we must be sure there are funds for refugees and that these funds are distributed. This, and the resettlement of refugees, is our responsibility," he said


French GUE/NGL MEP Marie-Christine Vergiat said she considered it "surreal" that the free movement of people in Europe should be called into question and that national borders should be re-established to face up to the "flow" of migrants that is hitting Europe since the Tunisian revolution.


She said that Sarkozy and Berlusconi are looking to their electoral interests, manipulating peoples' fears and making them feel they are being invaded. "This is absolute rubbish." Vergiat said.  "What are we proposing today"? she asked. "To give into populist pressure? To continue building Fortress Europe? Shouldn't we be sending a different message to the emerging democracies on the other side of the Mediterranean?," Vergiat concluded.


Cornelia Ernst (GUE/NGL, Germany) said it was "neither reasonable to discuss the re-establishment of border controls nor did it help the already fragile solidarity between the EU member states in any way. Changing the Schengen agreement "will only intensify this crisis by promoting fear mongering and populism."


"I think we need to get to the real point," she said. "Europe is not experiencing a massive influx of refugees. Italy could definitely cope with the current number of refugees. Of course Italy needs the support and solidarity of the other member states now. That means not calling the Schengen system into question but adopting an EU-level immigration package as fast as possible so that asylum seekers can enjoy better protection.


"Instead of intensifying border controls, the European Union should focus on human development and well being and develop a reasonable and meaningfully coordinated immigration policy," MEP Ernst concluded.



Gay Kavanagh +32 473 84 23 20 - David Lundy + 32 485 50 58 12

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