EU interior ministers agreed to reinstate border control after influxes of refuges followed the Arab Spring.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 13/06/12
A police patrol guard checks the weight of a truck before it crosses the Schengen border. [Reuters]
The European Parliament (EP) will vigorously fight a decision of the EU interior ministers to allow the 26 governments to reinstate national passport control at their state lines, EP President Martin Schulz said.
The switch, an emergency mechanism of border control, was sharply criticised by almost all political groups as an attack on EU citizens' basic rights.
The move was agreed upon at a June 7th meeting in Luxemburg, prompted by the Arab Spring, "during which thousands of refugees from North Africa fled to the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa. In the east, illegal immigrants poured in through the porous border between Turkey and Greece," German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.
"Some 55,000 people were caught while trying to enter illegally into Schengen territory through this hot point."
The Schengen Zone includes 22 EU countries, as well as Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland -- from Portugal to Russia's borders on the Baltic, and from Reykjavik to Turkey's border with Greece. Customs controls and barriers within the EU Schengen Zone were abolished after 1995.
"The decision is very concerning for the EP. We will do everything to prevent change of Schengen rules," MP Tanja Fajon told SETimes.
According to Treaty Article 70, the EP has a decision-making role in the evaluation of how Schengen rules are implemented.
The decision has also sparked concern in Southeast Europe.
On Sunday, Fajon said that a Schengen revision would be dangerous for Serbia, due to a large number of asylum seekers.
"If a mechanism of a temporary suspension of the visa-free regime is accepted, this will be very dangerous; some EU member states could request that Serbia be placed back on the black Schengen list," Fajon said.
Inda Dana, an Albanian lawyer from Tirana, told SETimes, "Freedom of movement has been the best thing about the EU. Restricting it would make the EU much less attractive for us."
Kosovo does not have a visa free regime yet, although the country considers it one of its main aspirations.
"This [decision] could mean that some countries will add further requirements for Kosovars to obtain a Schengen visa. That would make it more difficult to travel … and could also mean that it will be more expensive for Kosovars who need to travel to get a visa," Seb Bytyci, executive director of the Balkan Policy Institute, told SETimes.
The Guardian reported that the interior ministers also agreed to combat immigration "by pressing for 'readmission accords' with countries in the Middle East and north Africa to send refugees back to where they came from."
The issue will be discussed at a summit of EU prime ministers and presidents next month.
"It is only the beginning of the negotiations. They breached the EU Treaty. We will continue fighting it. The Schengen Treaty is a symbol of Europe; we can't change the rules of a symbol," Fajon told SETimes.