EU Home Affairs Ministers discussed internal border checks and free movement of persons

Source: Croatian presidency of the EU (Croatian presidency) i, published on Friday, June 5 2020, 8:00.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior dr. sc. Davor Božinović chaired raad binnenl a video-conference of EU i Home Affairs Ministers.

The COVID-19 outbreak threatened some of the foundations of the European Union, such as the European Single Market and freedom of movement. On behalf of the Presidency, Minister Božinović commended national administrations, the European Commission and other participants for their contribution in combating the coronavirus and for their cooperation in mitigating the consequences of introduced travel restrictions and border checks.

Border checks and free movement of persons

Over the past months, Member States and the European Commission have worked tirelessly to minimise the impact of the restrictions introduced on the European Single Market and free movement of persons. Given that the current health situation allows for entering a stage where measures can be mitigated, the ministers used today’s video-conference to discuss the procedure for returning to the full functioning of the Schengen area and free movement of persons, which is of key importance for economic recovery and the European Union in general.

All Member States gradually mitigate or abolish measures which were imposed on national or regional levels. This also includes the gradual abolishment of border checks and full reintroduction of free movement of persons which was restricted due to the pandemic, whereby Member States face a number of challenges. In this light, the ministers used today’s videoconference to examine how the restrictions on the freedom of movement and internal border checks could be abolished in a coordinated, non-discriminatory and proportionate manner, in line with the Joint European Roadmap towards lifting COVID-19 containment issued by the European Commission. They also commented on the foreseen time frames within which border checks will be abolished once the health situation in a particular Member State makes it possible.

Member States have also expressed their views on possible lifting of restrictions which have been in place for third-country nationals and on the criteria and measures on the basis of which the restrictions would be lifted.

The Croatian Presidency also reported on the ministerial EU-US videoconference in the area of justice and home affairs, held on 28 May. The topics discussed at the video-conference included European and American views on important issues in the area of justice and home affairs during and after the pandemic, whereby the focus was on the exchange of information on measures taken, lessons learned and plans for the upcoming period. Four major areas of cooperation that were discussed were the following: crime during the COVID-19 pandemic, effectiveness of restrictive measures, travel conditions and visa reciprocity, fight against disinformation related to COVID-19, and challenges in the area of justice as a result of the pandemic.

Malta informed other Member States on the current migration situation in the Central Mediterranean and on difficulties it faces in the reception of migrants. The Croatian Presidency expressed its gratitude for the past efforts in addressing the migrant crisis and its support to Malta and the European Commission for their efforts in finding the appropriate solution to the problems that the Central Mediterranean is facing.

The European Commission submitted a written report to the ministers on the implementation of the Interoperability Regulation, and the Presidency submitted a report on excellent results achieved within the framework of EMPACT in the fight against serious international and organised crime. The ministers were also informed about the current state of play regarding legislative proposals.

At the end of the video-conference, the upcoming German Presidency presented its programme for the next six months.