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EU Negotiators Reach Agreement to Update Schengen Borders Code, Prioritizing Freedom of Movement and Security

Negotiators representing the European Union Parliament and the presidency of the Council of the EU have successfully reached a provisional agreement on an updated Schengen Borders Code, with the aim of reducing the frequency of temporarily reintroduced internal border controls across the Schengen Area. This tentative accord, struck on Tuesday evening, February 6, will now proceed for confirmation to Coreper, the body comprising representatives from member states within the Council. Formal adoption by both parties is required before the agreement can take effect.

EU Negotiators Reach Agreement to Update Schengen Borders Code, Prioritizing Freedom of Movement and Security

Rapporteur Sylvie Guillaume emphasized the significance of the agreement in safeguarding the freedom of movement, a principle that has faced challenges over the past decade. Guillaume stressed the inclusion of "clear and limited time lines for internal border controls, criteria for Member States to follow if they want to reintroduce internal border controls, and... harmonised procedures to be applied at external borders in cases of future pandemics."

In echoing the sentiments, Belgian Minister of the Interior, Annelies Verlinden, expressed confidence that the agreement would bolster the two main pillars of the Schengen Area: "Hassle-free movement across our internal borders and the security of our external borders." Verlinden underscored the significance of these elements and the need for clarity and strength in their enforcement.


The agreement delineates specific conditions under which member states may introduce internal border controls, notably when faced with a proven serious threat to internal security and when alternative measures are inadequate. Controls are to be limited initially to one month, with a maximum extension of three months. For foreseeable threats, controls may be extended for up to six months, renewable once for a total of two years. In cases of major exceptional situations, controls may be prolonged beyond two years for a maximum of six additional months, renewable once for a total duration of one year.

In addition to addressing the reintroduction of internal borders, the updated code introduces new border measures to combat the exploitation of migrants and establishes a new transfer procedure for irregular migrants. It also regulates travel restrictions for non-EU nationals during major health emergencies, a provision informed by the experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This agreement comes in the wake of a proposal by the Commission to increase Schengen Visa fees by 12.5 percent. If approved, this proposal will not impact existing visa facilitation agreements with several third countries, preserving the current arrangements in place.


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