Europe has Schengen in its sights. Once lauded as one of the EU’s landmark treaties, an influx of migrants from North Africa has changed all that with calls for new rules on the borderless zone.
The Schengen treaty was first signed in 1985. Now France and Italy in particular want to make it easier for individual member states to reintroduce temporary frontier checks – something the Schengen passport-free travel accord aimed to get rid of.
Under the current deal, only a ‘serious threat’ to public order or internal security can be used by the signatory nations to reimpose internal border checks. But, that could all be about to change with the European Commission issuing a paper for possible change.
Schengen currently covers 25 EU states, or most of the bloc, and is home to roughly 400 million people.
Hopes are high that the planned changes, which include allowing states to restore internal borders under exceptional circumstances, will improve Schengen’s operation following a squabble between Paris and Rome.
Under pressure from anti-immigrant parties within their respective countries, French President Nicholas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Belusconi issued a joint letter calling on Brussels to implement change.
The cause of the dispute between the French and Italian government is the final fate of some 25,000 Tunisians that have been landing on Italy’s island of Lampedusa since January and their on-going migration to France.
The initial influx led to demands from Italy for other EU members to take their share. When that wasn’t forthcoming, Rome issued the boat people with temporary visas. That prompted Paris to shut its borders, a measure which threatened to rip the Schengen deal to shreds.