EU considers return of passport checks for two years

Suggested move would effectively suspend the union’s Schengen system temporarily

The EU’s relocation plan for 120,000 refugees, agreed in September, is already in difficulty, with just several hundred refugees relocated so far. Photograph: Getty Images

The EU’s relocation plan for 120,000 refugees, agreed in September, is already in difficulty, with just several hundred refugees relocated so far. Photograph: Getty Images

 

EU justice ministers meeting in Brussels on Friday will consider allowing member states to reintroduce passport checks at their borders for up to two years in the latest attempt to deal with the refugee and migrant crisis that has seen hundreds of thousands of people reach Europe this year.

The suggestion – which would effectively suspend the EU’s Schengen system temporarily – comes amid growing concern about the viability of the 20-year-old passport-free zone, a fulcrum of the EU’s principle of free movement.

A number of states, including France, Germany and the Benelux countries, have reintroduced systematic passport checks at their borders in response to the refugee crisis and the terrorist attacks in Paris.

Queues of more than 20km were reported at the France-Luxembourg border this week as vehicles awaited checks. The move – which would need sign-off from EU leaders at a summit in two weeks – is the most radical proposal yet to deal with the refugee crisis.

Tensions

The suggestion that countries would be legally permitted to introduce border checks for up to two years is widely seen as an acknowledgment in the EU that some countries are already doing so. Schengen rules currently allow countries to reintroduce border controls only in emergency situations.

As tensions continued at the Greek-Macedonian border on Thursday, Greece hit back at accusations that it is failing to adequately document migrants and refusing to accept EU help. Tensions between police and migrants flared for the second day, after the death of a Moroccan man who was electrocuted. Thousands of migrants are attempting to cross from Greece into Macedonia, which is not a member of the EU or Schengen, in order to travel on to other EU countries.

Separately, the European Commission is drawing up proposals for a system that would see EU countries resettling refugees directly from Turkey, with EU leaders due to discuss the issue at their upcoming summit.

The EU’s relocation plan for 120,000 refugees, agreed in September, is already struggling, with only a few hundred refugees relocated so far.