Schengen Agreement threatened by recent decisions from Nordic CountriesMigration 18 January 2016
On 4 January, Sweden decided to tighten the control on people entering from Denmark by train, bus or boat. All travellers are now required to present a valid ID, passport, driving licence or Swedish national identity cards in order to be able to enter the country. 34 checkpoints have been set up at Copenhagen airport’s Kastrup train station. Mandatory train stop between the two countries and a total of 150 security staff have been stationed at the airport to oversee the controls. A temporary fence has been erected at the train station to prevent people from trying to slip across the tracks. These measures came after an earlier decision of the Swedish Government to impose border control as a reaction to the 160.000 asylum applications received in 2015 and the record number of 115.000 asylum seekers arrived in the last 4 months of 2015, including 26.000 unaccompanied children. As a consequence, Denmark decided as well to tighten the control on its southern border with Germany.
The temporary reintroduction of border controls between Member States is an exceptional possibility explicitly foreseen in and regulated by the Schengen Borders Code, in case of a serious threat to public policy or internal security. It needs to be authorized by the European Commission, who replied positively. Earlier, the Commission also approved similar decisions by Germany, Austria, Hungary and Slovenia.
However, the Commission does recall that these suspensions are not to be considered a solution, but just a temporary measure. These decisions need to be complemented with a swift implementation of the measures proposed in order to manage the refugee crisis, including the plan to relocate refugees from the first countries of arrival to other EU states.
This plan is the most effective way to reduce uncontrolled flow from Greece, Croatia and Italy, where the reception systems are also overburdened and incapable to face the large influx of migrants characterizing the recent months. However, only 272 refugees have been relocated from Greece and Italy so far, out of 160-thousand originally pledged.
Despite these recent decisions, Dimitri Avramopoulos, EU Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs stated that “We all agreed that the Schengen and free movement must be safeguarded, both for citizens and for the economy”, and that measures taken will be kept to a minimum and return to normal as soon as possible. However, Germany’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said that the Schengen system “is very important, but it is in danger due to the flow of refugees” and reiterated the call for a pan-European agreement on how to control the movement of migrants across borders.