The war in Ukraine, which has caused an unprecedented flow of refugees to seek shelter in the EU, points to an urgent need for effective, humane and humanitarian common European regulations on migration and asylum in an open but equally secure Schengen area, according to an EESC opinion adopted at its plenary session in May.

"The Russian military aggression against Ukraine is a game changer. Historically, it's the greatest threat there has ever been to the functioning of the Schengen area and the security of the EU. The terrible events in Ukraine reaffirm the importance of external border security in the Schengen area and stability as a prerequisite for Europe's internal security," said the rapporteur for the opinion Security Union package/Schengen package, Krzysztof Balon.

He said that the EESC supported the Commission's position that any border closures between Schengen countries should only be temporary.

In the opinion, which evaluated the Commission's recent package updating the rules governing the Schengen area, the EESC stated that Member States' security concerns would be better addressed by increasing and strengthening cooperation and coordination between law enforcement authorities than by reintroducing controls at internal borders.

The opinion puts a strong emphasis on ensuring that the EU and the Member States, when managing borders, migration and asylum, respect the Charter of Fundamental Rights at all times, in particular freedom of movement and residence as well as the right to asylum and the principle of non-return. The same applies to all instances of police and judicial cooperation between Member States.

The EESC called upon the Member States to proactively support the solidarity mechanism and share responsibility for migration management, in line with the provisions of the New Pact for Asylum and Migration.

Solidarity mechanisms could be developed among the Member States on the basis of the Temporary Protection Directive, which has just been activated in the context of the Russian aggression against Ukraine and which the EESC greatly appreciates. The Commission should consider implementing the Temporary Protection Directive for non-EU nationals in future severe and urgent crisis situations.

The EESC also repeated its concern about the continued exclusion of Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus from the Schengen area and sided with the Commission in calling for swift and decisive action from the Council to change that.(ll)