DIn the future, EU member states will be allowed to impose border controls for up to three years, but they will have to justify this better than before. This is the core of a revision of the Schengen Borders Code, which the Council and the EU Parliament have agreed on. It also contains new rules for the instrumentalization of migrants at the external border, police cooperation at the internal borders and the transfer of irregular migrants who are apprehended there. The agreement between the legislators essentially follows the EU Commission's proposal from the end of 2021.

Thomas Gutschker

Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries based in Brussels.

Internal border controls remain the last resort in the event of “a serious threat to public order or internal security in a Member State”. If this threat is “unforeseeable”, they can be imposed immediately for one month, with extensions for a maximum of three months in total; in the previous border code it is six months. In this case, the Member States, Commission and Parliament simply need to be informed.

In contrast, “foreseeable” threats must be communicated in advance. In this case, the borders may be controlled for up to six months, with extensions for a maximum of two years. This corresponds to the previous maximum period, although an additional year is possible in “particularly exceptional circumstances”, for a total of three years.

Police are allowed to cooperate on irregular migration

The Commission's supervision will be strengthened. In the case of foreseeable threats, it should issue a statement on the necessity and proportionality if it considers controls to be doubtful. The same applies in any case to extensions after twelve months. So far, this is only an optional provision that the Commission has never used, not even for legally questionable decisions by states during the coronavirus pandemic. For example, the closure of the Belgian borders with neighboring countries was controversial.

If third countries use migrants to exert pressure, the Member States concerned may limit the number of their border crossing points and their opening times. States with a border with Belarus and Russia had particularly pushed for this. In order to better manage irregular migration movements at the internal borders, the police should work more closely together. They are now allowed to conclude bilateral agreements that allow them to return people to the country from which they crossed a border. However, this does not apply to asylum seekers and recognized refugees.

In the event of a pandemic, the Council can in future impose entry restrictions and health requirements for people from third countries that are binding for all member states. Until now, only recommendations were possible, which many states did not adhere to.