Europe could give individual states more power to temporarily restore border controls under new plans that were discussed on Wednesday.
The possible shake up of the Schengen borderless zone follows calls by France and other EU states to be given more flexibility to contain the immigration crisis that is being sparked by the boat loads of people fleeing unrest in North Africa.
Most of the migrants initially ended up on Italy’s small island of Lampedusa, later spreading inside the EU after being issued with temporary visas.
Europe’s Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom has said restoring internal borders under exceptional circumstances could be an option to deal with sudden immigration inflows.
The commission also wants to give the bloc’s border control agency Frontex more power to protect the continent’s frontiers.
Faced with growing political pressure to curb the arrival of newcomers, the latest proposals appear to be a move to quell criticism.
But the Schengen shake up could run into opposition in Europe’s parliament. Liberal MEPs have vowed to oppose any limit on the fundamental EU right of free movement of people within the bloc.