Temporary border controls a 'possibility': EU's Barroso

1st May 2011, Comments 0 comments

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has said there is a "possibility" of allowing EU nations to temporarily restore border controls in exceptional circumstances.

In a letter sent to French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and released by his office, Barroso said "the temporary re-establishment of borders is a possibility among others that, as long as it is governed by specific and well-determined criteria, could constitute one method of reinforcing the implementation of the Schengen accord" on free movement of people in Europe.

The EU executive said last week it is drawing up "precise conditions" under which states angry with the realities of borderless travel across Europe's passport-free Schengen area may temporarily police internal frontiers once more.

The European Commission will spell out on Wednesday the full room for manoeuvre available to the likes of France -- which would like to restore emergency national controls after a 1985 treaty abolishing border posts grew to encompass 25 continental states that are home to 400 million people.

"I am convinced that we share the same objectives," Barroso said in the letter, adding that EU migration policy needed to be better coordinated between nations and more interdependent.

He said the EU's migration policy should follow a "balanced approach" without security concerns dominating.

He also said the commission was in favour of strengthening EU joint border agency Frontex.

At a meeting in Rome last month, Sarkozy and Berlusconi issued a joint letter to the commission asking for the possibility of restoring border checks "temporarily in cases of exceptional difficulty in managing common external borders."

Tens of thousands of mainly Tunisians have fled democratic uprisings and crackdowns in north Africa since January, most heading for Europe through Italian shores including the tiny Mediterranean island of Lampedusa.

Italy has accused EU partners of abandoning it in the fight against economic immigration.

Paris in turn has accused Rome of abusing Schengen by issuing temporary residence permits and travel documents to migrants in the knowledge many among the French-speaking Tunisians want to go to France.

Currently, only a "serious threat" to public order or internal security can be used as exceptional justification for temporary border controls, which would need renewal after 30 days, although what constitutes a "serious" threat is up to states.

© 2011 AFP

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