EU nations push for stronger border controls could impact Schengen zone
Several EU countries that are a part of the Schengen area are seeking to strengthen their border controls for all asylum seekers, including implementing biometric registration and identification, following last Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
Formed in March 1995, the Schengen area is comprised of 26 European countries and allows for the free movement of people without being subjected to passport checks.
However, many EU countries in the area are calling for passport controls, which could ultimately impact the future existence of the Schengen zone, according to a report by Bloomberg.
Interior ministers from EU countries are meeting in Brussels today to discuss the future of the zone, with France leading the push for increased border controls.
In a briefing to MP, the Netherlands’ prime minister Mark Rutte said the country is rolling out previously-planned security measures to tighten up the biometric registration and identification process for asylum seekers arriving in the country in the short term, according to a report by Dutch News.
Rutte said that all asylum seekers and their baggage will now be fully searched, in addition to having their biometrics data included on a special register.
Border police will be given the right to check mobile phones and tablets for documents and other relevant information.
Meanwhile, Swedish prime minister Stefan Lofven said the government will propose at an EU meeting held on Friday the introduction of biometric passport controls at the external borders of the Schengen zone, according to a report by Reuters.
Lofven did not provide any details about the proposal but said that Sweden might increase camera surveillance and give police more power to monitor digital communications such as Skype.
Earlier this year, Emirati citizens were granted a visa waiver for Schengen countries. The UAE became the first Arab country to be given free entry to the area, enabling UAE citizens and eligible residents to travel, without passport checks, across the majority of Europe for 90 days in any 190-day period.
Many EU countries have been calling for the reintroduction of border controls as the number of refugees has significantly increased over the past year. The proposed move by EU authorities is intended to organize the flow of refugees as well as to understand who is entering their country.
The Schengen agreement includes a clause that allows for the reintroduction of border controls during emergency situations, although any long-term restrictions to the zone would ultimately be damaging to the international community.
“The big question is whether Schengen will be formally abolished, or if countries will begin to opt out from it,” the geopolitical risk firm Stratfor said in an analysis. “The concept of a Europe without borders has become very difficult for governments to defend.”