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S&Ds: Free movement is not a political football


16 Dec 2021


Justice & Home Affairs

S&D MEPs voiced serious concerns on the Commission’s revised rules on the Schengen area. The Schengen area, representing free movement and the end of internal borders in the EU, has suffered significantly as a result of national kneejerk responses to irregular migration, perceived terrorist threat, and - more recently - the pandemic. While Commission proposals to deal with future pandemics are welcome, there are concerns among S&D members that the revised Schengen rules now being put on the table will further politicise internal border controls as a migration tool. Overall, in this new package of proposals, instead of seeking to fully restore free movement, the Commission appears to be giving national governments more manoeuvre to introduce border controls within the EU.

Birgit Sippel MEP, S&D spokesperson on home affairs, said:

“By using the Schengen rulebook as a migration tool, the Commission’s proposals endanger one of the greatest EU achievements and allow national governments to hijack free movement and use border controls to score political points at homeFree movement is not a political football and we strongly oppose any politicisation of the Schengen area in this way. As guardian of the treaties, the Commission should defend our right to free movement, but these proposals look like the Commission wants to give national governments every opportunity to put up internal border controls for long periods.

“When it comes to the secondary movement of asylum-seekers, the Commission’s proposals on entry and returns procedures between member states will only fuel unnecessary internal conflicts at a time when we need to be building solidarity, which is best achieved in the legislation currently being dealt with by the co-legislators in the Migration Pact.”

S&D MEP Juan Fernando López Aguilar, chair of the civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee, said:

“The Commission’s proposals will not restore Schengen, but instead gives governments the keys to drag Europe back to a pre-Schengen era. The Commission is again reacting to certain member states’ domestic political concerns rather than acting as Guardian of the Treaties. Provisions providing for long-term internal border control, such as extending the length of time border controls can be in place to 2 years, will only enhance the likelihood of an overall shutdown of the Schengen Area.

The Covid-19 crisis highlighted the dangers of a lack of coordination from EU governments, and clearer rules on free movement in times of a pandemic are welcome. Schengen’s struggles have gone far deeper than the pandemic, so we must improve Schengen rules, but we fear in a number of areas the Commission is going in the wrong direction.”