Internal Europe border checks back on the table

Citing the continued terrorist threat, ministers from Germany, France and Austria said the European Union’s free-travel zone still needs the temporary border controls set up by some countries in recent years.

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The EU’s nations in the Schengen zone started re-introducing border controls in 2015 during a huge influx of refugees and migrants and after a series of attacks by Islamist militants.

Measures imposed by Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Norway expire this month (November) and Germany said it would extend them for another six months due to “serious threat to public policy or internal security”.

At the recent EU interior ministers’ meeting, Germany’s Thomas de Maiziere said Berlin was still committed to freedom of movement, “but at the moment we cannot do without checks.”

“The reason is the tense security situation in Europe with regards to international terrorism and the still inadequate protection of our external borders,” he told reporters in Luxembourg.

France, which imposed emergency border controls after Islamist attackers killed 130 people in Paris in November, 2015, is also keeping them in place for now.

“The issues around terrorism are still extremely important for us,” French Interior Minister Gerard Colomb said, standing next to de Maiziere. “France wants to extend border controls by six months.”

Austria’s Wolfgang Sobotka said there was “high risk” for Europe and checks were necessary to be able to follow potential attackers and recruiters.

Border checks have become the new reality in Europe over the last two years and the bloc is working on changing its laws to allow for the introduction of such measures more easily and for longer periods.

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