Communication on a Strategy for the future of Schengen and Amendment of the Regulation establishing the Schengen Evaluation Mechanism

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Opinia EKES-u: Communication on a Strategy for the future of Schengen and Amendment of the Regulation establishing the Schengen Evaluation Mechanism

Key points

The EESC:

  • welcomes the Commission's Strategy towards a fully functioning and resilient Schengen area.
  • reaffirms its full support for the principles underlying Schengen cooperation: the unimpeded exercise of the fundamental treaty freedoms in a common area of freedom, security and justice and the need to reinforce joint responsibility and solidarity in the management of the external borders.
  • reiterates that, when framing and implementing EU policy for border management, interoperability, migration and asylum management, and police and criminal justice cooperation, the EU and its Member States are at all times bound by the Charter of Fundamental Rights, whose provisions they are obliged not only to respect but also to promote.
  • is deeply concerned by reports of fundamental rights violations at the EU's external borders and calls upon the Commission and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (EBCGA) to remedy, monitor and follow up on reports of fundamental rights violations without delay and to ensure that the accountability mechanisms set out in the EBCG Regulation are implemented effectively.
  • calls for the Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights to be strengthened and for organised civil society, via the EESC, to be involved in it.
  • expresses its concern at the semi-permanent reintroduction of border controls at parts of Member States internal borders and the negative economic and social impact this has had on EU citizens, businesses, and in particular frontier workers, border communities and Euroregions. It calls upon the Commission to carefully monitor and assess the necessity and proportionality of these reinstatements on a periodic basis and to take action where necessary. It applauds the Commission's stated intention to more readily use its enforcement powers where Schengen Evaluations may give rise to such action.
  • expresses its concern about the continued exclusion from full application of the Schengen acquis of the Member States Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia. Along with the Commission, it calls for swift and decisive action from the Council in this regard.
  • evaluates the proposals to improve the functioning of the Schengen Evaluation Mechanism as positive, in particular the quicker follow-up, increased synergies with the Vulnerability Assessment Mechanism and increased and more horizontal attention to human rights, including the envisaged role for the Fundamental Rights Agency. However, care should be taken to ensure that the Schengen Evaluation Mechanism does not politicise issues of a more technical nature.
  • is of the opinion that the Schengen Forum can provide political impetus to the safeguarding and development of the Schengen area, but warns that it should not entail a return to Schengen's intergovernmental past, the functioning of which was prejudiced by intergovernmentalism and lack of transparency. Other EU institutions, as well as the Committee, should be kept informed at all times and be able to attend as participants.
  • agrees with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen 2021 State of the Union address, that it is critically important to agree on a common European system for the management of our external borders, migration and asylum in order not to allow third countries to take advantage of a lack of unity.