Shutterstock/Apples Eyes Studio
Schengen zone

You might not be able to travel freely within Europe for another two years

European Union interior ministers have already reached a number of agreements to do with travel security.

Updated at 16:05

EU MINISTERS HAVE reached a number of agreements today to do with increasing security checks on people travelling between EU member states.

Meeting in Brussels today, EU interior and justice ministers, including Ireland’s Frances Fitzgerald, agreed on proposals for a Passenger Name Record (PNR) Directive, which would allow countries to monitor the passenger information of air carriers.

PNR data is information relating to passengers and their travel, which is collected and held by air carriers.

Under the proposals, airlines would have to hand over the information to countries for inbound and outbound international flights to their territory.

Commenting on the agreement, Minister Fitzgerald said that all ministers present agreed on the importance of the directive.

“We all agree on the importance of this Directive and I like many of my counterparts have been actively engaging with Parliamentarians to drive home the message that achieving an effective, workable and ambitious PNR agreement is key in the fight against terrorism and organised crime,” she said.

Minister Fitzgerald also joined with a number of other EU countries to agree a pilot project that would enhance the exchange of information between police forces.

The Automated Data Exchange Process (ADEP) will test a system which would allow one country to automatically query the database of another if there is a need.

“Ireland is well-known among our EU partners for promoting policing cooperation and this is another example,” the Minister Fitzgerald.

I am happy to support the Garda Síochána’s participation in this pilot scheme, which could have significant benefits down the line in relation to the efficiency of information exchange.”

Brussels meeting

EU minister will also discuss whether to extend internal border checks for up to two years to help many of them cope with record migrant inflows, according to EU sources.

The ministers meeting in Brussels will discuss longer-term checks within the passport-free Schengen zone that benefits most of the EU’s 28 member countries, they added.

Countries like Germany, Austria and Sweden in the last few months have all reintroduced temporary border controls as they were overwhelmed by the flow of asylum seekers, most of whom entered the EU through Greece.

Under current Schengen rules, countries can impose border checks for no longer than six months.

An EU diplomatic source said Luxembourg, which currently holds the bloc’s rotating presidency, had put on the agenda for today’s meeting a proposal to extend such Schengen checks for up to two years.

This would be possible under article 26 of the Schengen code.

“Such a recommendation may be adopted in exceptional circumstances to address a situation where a Schengen evaluation has identified persistent serious deficiencies relating to external border control,” said a draft of the proposal seen by AFP.

Greece Migrants Macedonian police use pepper spray and stun grenades to repel a group of several hundred migrants attempting to cross the Greek-Macedonian border, near the northern Greek village of Idomeni, on Wednesday. Associated Press Associated Press

The diplomatic source said longer-term reintroductions of border controls “can only be done following a long process of several months,” which would require a report from the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm.

“That’s why we must speak about it now,” the source said, adding that the ministers would not vote on the issue on Friday. Another diplomat said:

It’s not a suspension of Schengen that is being raised, it is an initiative to make sure that states will not leave the Schengen zone after March, if the situation has not improved with Greece.

Schengen includes 22 of the EU’s 28 member states — all except  Ireland, Britain, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania — plus non-EU members Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem warned last week that a small group of EU countries — namely Austria, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden — may be forced to form a “mini-Schengen” if the bloc fails to resolve its migrant crisis since World War II.

The idea is to allow free travel among the countries but to impose controls on their external frontiers.

With reporting from Cormac Fitzgerald

- © AFP, 2015

‘We need some breathing room’: Sweden is tightening its asylum rules >

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.