May 13, 2011

The Eurpean Union Moves To End Passport-Free Schengen Travel. Woah! Prayer answered. Thank you God! :)

The Telegraph UK
written by Nick Allen
Thursday May 12, 2011

The European Union has moved toward reversing passport free travel across the continent amid fears of a wave of migrants fleeing unrest in north Africa.

At a special meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels, a majority of member states backed changes that would allow individual nations to restore controls at their borders.

Unfettered travel across Europe, not including Britain or Ireland, was established by the Schengen agreement and has been a signature accomplishment of the EU for 16 years.

But at the closed meeting of ministers on Thursday, 15 states voted for the temporary return, as a last resort and under strict conditions, of border guards to deal with any sudden surge in migration.

They also supported reintroduction of guards if an EU state fails to control its frontier with non-EU nations. Only four nations were against, according to diplomats.

French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said: "A very wide consensus, if not near unanimity, was reached on the commission proposals."

The measures will be discussed at an EU summit of prime minsters on June 24 and would also have to pass through the European Parliament where there is likely to be resistance.

Since the Arab Spring both France and Italy, which have faced the brunt of migrants arriving from North Africa in recent weeks, have lobbied intensively for the temporary return of internal borders.

Rome forced the issue by handing temporary residency permits to 20,000 migrants allowing them to travel freely throughout Schengen.

France, the likely destination of the mainly French-speaking Tunisian immigrants, responded by temporarily closing a key railway frontier with Italy.

Germany has led demands that it should not be made easier for member states to turn their back on the Schengen. Guido Westerwelle, Germany's foreign minister, said: "I will do everything in my power to ensure there are no steps backward. Freedom to travel is a higher good that we cannot sacrifice for internal political reasons," he said.

On the eve of the talks between interior ministers, Denmark announced a sudden decision to restore customs controls at its borders with Sweden and Germany within the next few weeks.

Danish Integration Minister Soren Pind defended the move, saying it was aimed at preventing cross-border crime and drug trafficking, and said the EU needed a frank discussion about the "dark side" of open frontiers.

The European Commission is reviewing the decision and said it would "not hesitate to take action" should it conclude that Denmark breached EU rules.

The EU's external borders have been under strain for some time in Greece, where the debt-stricken government has struggled with an influx of migrants sneaking in from neighbouring Turkey. Guards sent in from other EU states to help manage the frontier.

EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said: "Very few people so far have come to Europe but enough of course to make us think about how we receive these people and how we deal with this."

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