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EU Puts Forth Internal Border Checks as Part of Schengen Reform

The leaders of the EU member states have agreed to reform the borderless Schengen Area with a "safeguard mechanism" to allow for reintroduction of internal border checks by member nations.

The reform motion was approved by the EU Council on Friday after the 25-member Schengen Agreement has been under strain from migration pressures for months. While providing for the wider use of border checks by member states, however, the reform is also expected to require that any reintroduction of checks be coordinated on the EU level.

"Without undermining this basic principle [of free movement of persons], we felt the need to improve the Schengen rules," European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said at a press conference as EU leaders wrapped up their two-day summit in Brussels, as cited by international media.

The European Commission will present its proposals for reforming the Schengen mechanism by September 2011 its President Jose Manuel Barroso announced.

"The summit has made some crucial decisions with substantial consequences...The Commission will come forward with concrete proposals shortly," Barroso said.

He recognized that EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso recognized there had been tension and "a temptation to roll back the core principle of free movement of persons" but did stress that the decisions of the EU Council summit did not violate the free movement of people in the EU.

Bulgaria and Romania have largely been seen as "victims" to the tensions within the Schengen Area as even though they have met all requirements for Schengen accession as of the spring of 2011, it is still unclear when the two Balkan states will join. Bulgaria and Romania's accession to Schengen faces political opposition on part of several EU member states including France and Germany, which have insisted on tying their Schengen entry with their progress on corruption and judicial reform as monitored by the European Commission under a post-accession mechanism, the CVM.

It is still unclear how the reform call for the Schengen Agreement issued by the EU Council Friday will affect the chances of Bulgaria and Romania to be admitted sooner.

In a blitz comment after the summit of the EU leaders in Brussels, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has expressed satisfaction with the expected provisions of the Schengen reform.

The proposed Schengen reform will provide for the reintroduction of frontier checks only "as a very last resort ... in a truly critical situation ... for a strictly limited scope and period of time," in the wording of the EU leaders' summit.

The Schengen system has been under pressure after a rise in the number of illegal migrants from Arab countries in North Africa flooded Italy, and led to a conflict between Italy and France, leading to calls to make it easier to reintroduce internal border controls.

Checks are currently allowed for up to 30 days in case of threats to national security.

While the reintroduction of border checks by member states will be featured more prominently in the Schengen reform, it will also be required to be made in a coordinated manner between the member states.

Thus, according to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the European Commission will be the one to determine the exceptional circumstances which necessitate the reintroduction of border controls,

The EU Council has further made a pledge to set up a common EU asylum system and to offer aid to North African countries in return for their commitment to curb irregular migration.

Source : Sofia Weekly

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