France, with the support of Germany, has a plan to rewrite the Euro-area Schengen area rules. Because the current exceptions granted by Brussels for ‘temporary controls in exceptional circumstances’ expire in November and can no longer be renewed, time is of the essence. Paris and Berlin – plus the other countries that are ready to support the proposal – hope to create a more flexible system that allows states to police their borders with less constraints “in the event of a migration crisis.”
France is particularly eager for Schengen area rules to evolve and point the finger for current difficulties at countries like Italy, where a large number of migrants and refugees arrive. The accusation is likely to further deepen a fissure with Rome after disagreements between the two countries on Libya and the shipyards of Saint Nazaire. Paris wants to prevent migrants from going through Italy and “fleeing” to the north. Without reference directly to Italy, Emmanuel Macron stated: “We need cooperation with neighboring countries that today are defaulting.” He then argued: “About half of those seeking asylum in France have already been denied in a nearby country.”
When Macron speaks of “a nearby European country” he certainly means Italy, and he does so on the basis of data that actually confirm his thesis. According to Frontex, illegal crossings to France via Italy were 11,000 in 2016 – a 156% increase from 2015.
Merkel also seems ready to side with Macron on the issue. Both leaders will almost certainly also receive broad support across the European Union, with even the Nordic countries convinced that the framework of the Schengen rules needs to be revised.
Article 29 of the Schengen Code states that the authorization to suspend Schengen “in exceptional circumstances” must go from a Commission recommendation and then to a Council decision. But such authorization can be extended up to three times and in May the third, and last extension was made, this time for six months.
By November an additional extension will no longer be possible. Unless, of course, you change the rules.