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European Union to discuss extending border checks

REUTERS | GABRIELA BACZYNSKA
Published : Jan 23, 2016, 12:50 am IST
Updated : Jan 23, 2016, 12:50 am IST

European Union ministers will discuss on Monday whether to further extend emergency border controls within the Schengen free-travel zone, which is cracking as a wave of migrants arrive from West Asia,

European Union ministers will discuss on Monday whether to further extend emergency border controls within the Schengen free-travel zone, which is cracking as a wave of migrants arrive from West Asia, Africa and beyond.

More than one million people arrived in Europe in 2015 and the numbers show little sign of falling, presenting a major challenge for EU countries that is shaking the foundations of the 28-nation bloc.

While officials in Brussels and Berlin have warned that time is running out to tackle the migration issue or risk the Schengen area falling apart, EU governments have largely failed to deliver on measures they agreed to alleviate the crisis.

Unable to stem the flows, six Schengen members, including Germany and four other EU countries, have resorted to reinstating temporary border checks in the passport-free area. They can stay in place until May.

But with the migration crisis showing no signs of abating, EU interior ministers will debate during an informal meeting in Amsterdam on Monday what is going to happen afterwards.

Under the Schengen code temporary border checks may be extended for a total period of up to two years. For this to happen, EU leaders have to agree that “persistent serious deficiencies” in controls at Schengen’s external borders put its very existence at risk.

“We have not yet launched this mechanism... (but) this possibility exists, it is there and the Commission is prepared to use it if need be,” a spokesperson for the EU’s executive said of the potential extension.

For the extension to happen, the Commission would have to recommend it and the European Council, which brings together 28 EU leaders, approve it by a qualified majority.

“We’re not currently in that situation. But interior ministers will on Monday in Amsterdam have the opportunity to discuss... and it’s on the agenda what steps should be taken or will need to be taken once we near the end of the maximum period in May,” the spokesperson told a regular press briefing.

EU border agency Frontex said on Friday some 108,000 migrants arrived in December in Greece.

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