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EU FOREIGN ministers backed a two-year extension of internal border controls yesterday.
Their support for reform of the Schengen Borders Code follows comments by EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos that the refugee crisis was easing and urging a return to free movement.
Mr Avramopoulos said although the checks, originally imposed to stem refugee flows during the Syria crisis, had been justified, the reasons behind their introduction “are not there anymore.”
“I believe it is the moment to go back to the normal function of Schengen,” he said.
After the meeting he said recent terrorist attacks in Spain and Belgium meant “the Schengen borders code may not be sufficiently adapted to address the evolving security challenges.”
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said reforms would aim “to make the Schengen code more flexible, of course not to call into question free movement, but to allow our borders to be protected from terrorism.”
Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka warned: “Although there is no acute danger of terror in Austria, we are not an isolated island and must be prepared for all eventualities.”
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere insisted: “As long as the external borders are not secure enough, there will also be the requirement for controls at the internal borders.”
But Slovakia, which along with Hungary recently lost a court appeal against the EU refugee quota scheme, took a softer line, suggesting looming elections in Austria and Germany were influencing the debate.
“I think it is more a political question than the real necessity of these border controls,” Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kalinak said. “We will see after the elections, I think the situation will be pretty different.”
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