FIRST SCHENGEN FORUM TO CREATE A MORE RESILIENT EUROPEAN UNION
The first Schengen Forum, held in 2020, addressed five major issues concerning the European free-movement zone:
- Operational and legislative changes that improve the zone’s monitoring and identification mechanisms
- Revision of the Schengen Borders Code (see below) to improve current rules to enter the area without compromising the freedom of movement except as a “measure of last resort and for a limited period of time”
- Better management of EU’s external borders through the introduction of the upcoming ETIAS visa waiver application process, which is deemed “crucial to give border guards the information they need to know who is crossing” the European borders
- Strengthening of police cooperation and information exchange, which includes police checks, use of new technologies, joint investigation teams and cross-border hot pursuits or joint threat analysis
- Regular Schengen Forum meetings to coordinate new efforts taken by both the European Commission and the EU Member States
During the meeting, Johansson stated, “Schengen can be our lifeline when it comes to Europe’s post-coronavirus economic recovery.” Schinas emphasised the area’s importance over the years: “For the last 35 years, we have built an entire Schengen architecture to better protect the area without controls at internal borders.” And in the future, we must continue to build on and improve that architecture.”
In response to recent travel restrictions in the EU, Von der Leyen stated, “the first months of the pandemic showed us what happens when Schengen stops functioning: Europe grinds to a halt.” It may appear paradoxical, but this experience has made me very optimistic about Schengen’s future.”
REVISION OF THE SCHENGEN BORDERS CODE
On December 14, 2021, the Commission proposed amending the Schengen Border Code, which governs cross-border movement of people.
The following are some key elements of the proposal:
- Coordination mechanism to deal with health threats e.g. temporary travel restrictions
- Mechanism to provide a common response at internal borders in the face of a threat affecting a majority of member states
- Updated procedural safeguards in case of the reintroduction of internal borders
- Address unauthorised movement in the Schengen Area
The proposal is consistent with the topics discussed at the 2020 Schengen Forum.
ENHANCED SCHENGEN AREA EVALUATION MECHANISM
According to the most recent Schengen reform news, the council has adopted a general approach to an enhanced evaluation mechanism.
The evaluation and monitoring mechanism will enable objective and impartial assessments. Any flaws in the application of Schengen Area policy will be identified and corrected as soon as possible.
Unannounced evaluations of the application of the Schengen acquis at internal borders are permitted under the new rules. Because of faster evaluation processes, identifying and responding to deficiencies will be faster.
EU COUNTRIES AGREE TO REGULAR MINISTERIAL MEETINGS
On February 3, 2022, EU member states agreed to hold regular ministerial meetings to strengthen the political management of the Schengen Area.
The ‘Schengen Council,’ as French President Emmanuel Macron has dubbed it, will assess how the area is functioning and make coordinated decisions in times of crisis.
Following terrorist attacks in France, Macron has previously called for “deep reform” of external Schengen borders.
With the implementation of the ETIAS watchlist and electronic authorisation, the EU is taking steps to combat terrorism and security threats. All visa-free travellers will be required to pre-register online before travelling to Europe.
New meetings will aid in the coordination of the Schengen plan and the implementation of changes.