European Parliament: unlawful internal border controls must be halted and rights upheld at external borders


The European Parliament's resolution on the functioning of the Schengen Area calls for an end to illegal internal border controls imposed by EU member states, the upholding of individual rights at the external borders of the Schengen area, and calls for more stringent evaluation of the operational activities of Frontex and close oversight of the implementation of the security and law enforcement provisions in the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

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See: European Parliament resolution of 8 July 2021 on the Annual Report on the Functioning of the Schengen Area (2019/2196(INI)) (Rapporteur: Tanja Fajon, Socialists & Democrats, pdf) and: European Parliament procedure file

See also: Towards a stronger and more resilient Schengen area - the European Commission's new 'Schengen Strategy'.

All emphasis in quotes below has been added.

Functioning of the Schengen area

"2. Recalls that under current EU law, internal border controls may be reintroduced provided that they are necessary, proportionate, temporary in nature and a measure of last resort; reiterates, in that regard, its view that many of the prolongations of internal border controls since 2015 are not sufficiently substantiated and are not in line with the rules pertaining to their extension, necessity or proportionality, and are therefore unlawful"

"5. Reiterates the need for Member States to respect the law as enshrined in the Treaties and the Charter, and to implement border measures in a lawful and non-discriminatory manner; considers a regular political and public debate on the functioning of the Schengen area to be of critical importance"

"10. Encourages the Member States to strengthen the exchange of information and to further develop mutual cross-border police cooperation, for example through the increased use of joint investigation teams"

"12. Points out that effectively functioning external borders are essential for the viability of the Schengen area; notes with concern that the Schengen evaluation reports and the vulnerability assessments continue to point to deficiencies and vulnerabilities in the protection and management of external borders; calls on the Member States to implement the recommendations addressed to them by the Council and Frontex, aimed at remedying the deficiencies and vulnerabilities,in particular those relating to respect for fundamental rights in border management activities; stresses the importance of the legislative measures recently adopted;

"13. Is concerned about the impact of the existing travel restrictions on the rights of refugees and people seeking international protection; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that the adoption of such measures is fully consistent with the requirements enshrined in Articles 3 and 4 of the SBC and in the Charter;

14. Expresses its deep concern about the repeated allegations concerning Frontex’s involvement in pushbacks and the reported potential violations of fundamental rights in the context of the Agency’s activities, and considers that internal reporting mechanisms, as well as parliamentary and public scrutiny over Frontex’s activities, must be reinforced and effectively implemented; emphasises that Article 46 of the EBCG Regulation instructs the Executive Director of Frontex to suspend, terminate or not launch activities if the conditions to conduct those activities, including compliance with fundamental rights, are violated"

"16. Expresses its deep concern at the high number of deaths in the Mediterranean; recalls that rendering assistance to any person in distress at sea is a legal obligation under both EU and international law, and that search and rescue is an integral component of European integrated border management under the EBCG Regulation; calls on Frontex to significantly enhance the information available on its operational activities at sea, including through regular and adequate reporting to Parliament, such as in relation to its cooperation with the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Tripoli and the Libyan Coast Guard;

"17. Is deeply concerned by the persistent and serious reports about violence and pushbacks at the external borders, including from one Member State to another and then to a non-EU country; reiterates that Member States have an obligation to prevent unauthorised border crossings and recalls that this obligation is without prejudice to the rights of persons seeking international protection; calls on the Commission and the Member States to promote and carry out effective, independent and prompt investigations into any allegations of pushbacks and ill-treatment at the borders and to ensure that deficiencies are immediately remedied"

Schengen Evaluation and Monitoring Mechanism

"25. Considers that the future Schengen evaluation mechanism must include an evaluation of the operational activities of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, given its increasing role in external border management and return operations; considers further that the mechanism should reinforce its synergies with the vulnerability assessments of the European Border and Coast Guard; reiterates that duplications must be avoided and that the Schengen evaluators should have access to the results of the vulnerability assessments

26. Recalls that, among others, fundamental rights constitute an overarching component in the implementation of integrated border management; recalls, in addition, that the Schengen acquis must be implemented in compliance with the Charter; underlines, therefore, that Schengen evaluations must also examine whether fundamental rights are respected at the external borders, including the prohibition of refoulement, the right to respect for human dignity, the principle of non-discrimination and the right to seek international protection; considers that the future mechanism should provide for FRA experts to be formal members of the team responsible for on-site visits for any evaluation of external border management and return; considers that all relevant JHA agencies should be able to participate"

"29. Stresses that, in order to promote good governance and transparency, the Union institutions should conduct their work as openly as possible; considers that the Commission should make publicly available on its website information on the evaluation processes in each Member State and on Member States’ fulfilment of the Council’s recommendations; considers, furthermore, that the Commission should provide an appropriate platform for secure and encrypted access to the classified information of the Schengen evaluation documents for the actors with access rights, in particular for the Members of the European Parliament in order to facilitate their exercise of democratic control and scrutiny;

30. Notes that the Commission visited Croatia again in November 2020 with regard to the external border and reconfirmed that the necessary conditions for the application of the Schengen acquis had been met; calls on Croatia to continue to implement the ongoing actions and remedy any deficiencies identified, especially as regards training of staff, staffing levels and land border surveillance capacity; insists on a thorough assessment of compliance with fundamental rights following the repeated reports by NGOs and the media of abuse, violence and pushbacks by border officials; welcomes the establishment of an independent mechanism for the monitoring of the actions of police officers towards irregular migrants and applicants for international protection; calls on the Commission to continue to assess in all Member States the compliance of border management operations with fundamental rights requirements and to take the necessary measures in the event of human rights violations"

Use of large-scale information systems in the field of justice and home affairs

"32. Notes the progress made in the development of the new large-scale IT systems and interoperability among them; calls on the Member States, the Commission and the agencies involved to uphold the envisaged timetable for implementation, whichprovides for implementation of the new IT systems, completion of the reforms of the existing systems and interoperability of those systems by the end of 2023; notes, furthermore, the need for a stable legal framework for the implementation of those systems; recalls that use of those systems will also affect the right to privacy and the right to protection of data of the persons whose information will be stored in these systems, and stresses the need to follow through on the safeguards laid down in the legal acts establishing these systems throughout implementation"

"37. Considers that the Commission and the Council have seriously neglected their obligations following the detection of serious deficiencies in the use of the Schengen Information System by the UK, identified in the 2017 evaluation; recalls the request of the Working Group on Schengen Scrutiny to immediately disconnect the UK, as expressed in the letters to the Commission and to the Council Presidency of 15 June 2020; notes that the United Kingdom, as a non-EU country, no longer has access to the Schengen Information System; calls for the close monitoring of the continued security cooperation between the EU and the UK during the six-month period for data transfers agreed under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement"

Future of Schengen

"40. Considers that the Schengen Borders Code, in particular as regards rules on internal border controls, is no longer fit for purpose and requires urgent and meaningful reform in order to strengthen mutual trust and solidarity, and to safeguard the integrity and full restoration of the Schengen area; notes, in that regard, that clearer rules on public health emergencies are needed; stresses that, while the reintroduction of internal border controls remains a decision for individual Member States, it should only ever be a measure of last resort, for a limited period of time, and to the extent that controls are necessary and proportionate to the identified serious threat,paying particular attention to the impact on the right to freedom of movement and the principle of non-discrimination...

42. Calls on Parliament’s administration to establish a dedicated Schengen Governance Support Unit in order for Parliament to be able to properly exercise its democratic control and scrutiny functions in relation to the Schengen acquis"

See: European Parliament resolution of 8 July 2021 on the Annual Report on the Functioning of the Schengen Area (2019/2196(INI)) (pdf)

Image: diamond geezer, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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