The Schengen cooperation is an incredibly important part of the fundamental idea behind the EU – the free movement and our economy. It gives the possibility to 420 million people within the area to move freely across the internal borders, and is one of the things that the EU citizens appreciate most in the EU. One year ago, Schengen was causing a bit of a storm in Brussels. I had put forward a proposal that aimed to improve the Schengen system, something which caused tension between the Council and the Parliament. We really had difficulties in reaching an agreement, but after the summer, the three EU institutions sat down to create a compromise that everyone are more or less satisfied with. I am sure that it is not easy to follow everything that happens in Brussels, but we have managed to find a solution. We now have tools that enable us to strengthen the Schengen cooperation.
There is already today a mechanism that makes it possible to evaluate how the Member States implement the Schengen framework. However, it has become evident that we need new methods. The EU needs a mechanism that guarantees the protection of a system without internal border controls. We need a system that is better equipped to identify deficiencies at an early stage, and that is able to propose measures to follow up on these deficiencies. The new Schengen governance will provide this, and at the same time open up the system to be more transparent.
The Commission will be given a central and coordinating role in the new system. The evaluation of the functioning of Schengen will be conducted by the Commission together with experts from the Member States. We will also be able to give recommendations of improvements if we discover areas that could be enhanced. And, although not very likely to happen, the new system also creates an emergency brake and a possibility to temporarily reinstate border controls in extraordinary circumstances. However, and this is very important, no Member State can close a border on its own, as was discussed a year ago when the tension between France and Italy was at its peak.
The Commission can also keep an eye on the internal borders of the EU, to make sure that the Member States do not carry out unjustified passport controls. We know that this occurs too often today.
The new system will also give the European Parliament increased possibilities of influencing Schengen. The European Parliament will be given all relevant information, and both the Commission and the Council have expressed their will to consult with the Parliament on the evaluation of Schengen. The Parliament will vote on the improvements of the Schengen cooperation today, and I am happy that we have succeeded in strengthening such an important part of the EU.