French President Emmanuel Macron once again announced the need to reform the Schengen area. The European leader has been promoting this initiative for more than a year, but right now the conditions for the implementation of his plans are relatively favorable, given the French presidency of the EU Council. According to Macron, the details of future reforms will be made public soon, although their main principles have been announced earlier. The question is whether the president will have time to carry out his plan: he does not have much time at his disposal.
Macron spoke about his concern about the current situation in the Schengen zone during an informal meeting of the ministers of the interior of the member states of the European Union in the French city of Tourcoing, held in the middle of the week.
Despite the special nature of the event, the President of France was present as the head of state currently presiding over the Council of the EU. In his speech, Macron stressed that there can be no talk of any freedom of movement within the Schengen area if proper control is not established over the external borders of the association and the European Union (the composition of the EU members and the countries that have joined the Schengen differ slightly).
According to the French president, terrorism and illegal migration have now become the main threats to the common European space. As for illegal refugees, Macron believes that we are talking not only about humanitarian aspects. Migration has become a “hybrid weapon” capable of destabilizing Europe, he said.
Obviously, Macron had in mind not only the situation on the Belarusian-Polish border, but also territorial problems closer to him. So, after a meeting with the heads of the Interior Ministry of the EU countries, the president gave an interview during which he blamed the UK for the deaths of illegal immigrants trying to cross the English Channel. For example, in November last year, 27 people died under such circumstances: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson then said that the French side was obliged to take back other illegal migrants.
What does Macron propose to strengthen the strength of European borders?
First of all, the creation of the so-called Schengen Council, within which the heads of the interior ministries of the EU member states and the “Schengen” could develop collegial decisions. The activities of such a body, the French leader stressed, will allow not to make changes to the main international treaties and will give more room for maneuvering in extraordinary situations.
The second measure that Macron insists on is strengthening mutual assistance obligations towards countries located on the “outer edge” of the EU. In particular, it implies the prompt dispatch of international forces there – the police and the gendarmerie – in the event of a crisis.
Thirdly, Macron noted that to solve the problem of refugees, Europe will need the participation of other states.
“We also need to work with countries of origin and transit of illegal migrants. We are talking primarily about Africa and the Middle East,” the politician stressed.
Macron’s statements are not new, he spoke about the need to reform the Schengen area three and two years ago, and outlined the key principles at the end of 2021. The final draft of the French side is to be submitted in March; it is assumed that, if it is approved by all interested states, the Council of Interior Ministers will be established at the same time, which will have to work out specific measures.