Macron: a new council for the Schengen area?
President Emmanuel Macron has announced plans to reform the Schengen area during France's EU Council Presidency. The interior ministers of the Schengen member states are to form a new council and in particular coordinate and improve controls of the external borders with the aim of increasing freedom of movement within the EU once more. Europe's press wonders whether the initiative can be successful.
Indirect path could be successful
An informal Schengen Council could untie the Gordian knot of EU migration policy, writes Der Standard:
“[Macron] wants to increase security in Europe and achieve a better regulated asylum and migration policy. The idea is for the interior ministers of the countries concerned with open internal borders and common external borders to meet outside of the formal EU Council of Ministers. One or other of them would be elected to head the group for a longer period of time. Paris has in mind the Eurogroup of finance ministers as the model. ... If a Schengen Council can overcome national paralysis and achieve compromises among governments, it would make sense.”
Europe's disunity a major obstacle
The basic problem remains unsolved, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung points out:
“The recurring dispute about how open the EU's borders should be stems above all from a fundamental disagreement regarding immigration. The fact that countries like Germany want to take in irregular migrants while others want to seal off Europe will not be resolved by regular debates in the Schengen Council alone. And if Macron loses the election, in all likelihood the pro-migration government in Germany will no longer have a partner in Paris on this issue, but an opponent.”
As Europe's internal borders have been closed repeatedly in recent years, most recently because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Schengen area is nothing more than an illusion anyway, Jean Quatremer, Libération's Europe correspondent criticises:
“The EU Commission, however, is trying to keep up appearances by adopting the French proposals. Thus a 'political control' of the Schengen Agreement means in effect that each state is free to reintroduce controls at internal borders. And the proposal to once again tighten the conditions of entry for foreigners into an area where there is no freedom of movement but only controlled free movement confirms the impression that Europe is turning into a fortress. On the menu: borders for all.”