The European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee has approved a draft legislation allowing Schengen Treaty Member States to temporarily reimpose checks at internal borders.
In case of a serious threat to public policy or to internal security, Schengen Member States may be allowed to reimpose checks at internal borders for up to ten days. After that period, the decision to do so must be collective, says draft legislation.
The Schengen Treaty allows its Member States to reimpose checks at their shared borders. One clause, used 26 times to date, permits this in the event of "a serious threat to public policy or to internal security". The clause has been activated for international sports events, and more recently, after the Utøya massacre in Norway.
It was the reimposition of checks at the Franco-Italian border in April 2011 that led to the proposed reform now before Parliament. The reform seeks to strengthen security mechanisms so as to restore trust in the Schengen area.
MEPs reiterated that "migration and the crossing of external borders by a large number of third-country nationals should not per se be considered a threat to public policy or internal security".
They stressed that reimposing border checks must remain an exceptional measure, and a last resort.
The draft legislation sets out several scenarios that might justify reimposing checks. In the event of a serious and imminent threat to public order or internal security, checks could be reimposed for up to six months.
And in the event of "persistent, serious deficiencies" in a Member State's management of its portion of an EU external frontier, the Commission could decide that checks must be reimposed.
In a separate vote on visa legislation, MEPs backed a clause allowing the emergency reimposition of visa requirements for third country nationals crossing the EU's external frontiers.
The clause says that in the event of a "sudden and substantial" increase in the number of third-country nationals staying illegally on a Member State's territory, or in the number of asylum requests rejected, and if this seriously affects the situation as regards migrants in the Member State concerned, then the European Commission may reimpose the visa requirement.
By approving the rapport by MEP Renate Weber, the Committee gave her a mandate to negotiate with the Council, with a view to reaching a first-reading agreement.