France wants to keep tighter Schengen border controls

The Schengen Agreement allows travellers to travel between counties with reduced border controls

France has joined other European countries to demand that the European Commission allow increased border controls to remain within the Schengen Agreement Area in the EU.

Six states within the EU have requested that tighter border controls be permitted, with France citing increased risk of terrorism, and Germany, Denmark, Austria, Sweden and Norway saying they need more controls due to heightened levels of immigration.

Each of these nations has already put more border controls in place in recent months despite the Schengen Agreement, and now the European Commission has - somewhat reluctantly - allowed these to remain.

The controls in France will be permitted until October 31, and those in the other countries until November 11, with a possibility to be extended for 6-12 months. Any extension to the controls must be agreed with the nations’ neighbouring states, the Commission said.

The countries in question, including France, are still pleading for the controls to be allowed to remain for longer, however, as they deem the potential threats to still be a problem.

But a statement from the Commission underlined the importance of the Schengen Agreement, saying that increased controls should be “the exception” and “a last resort”.

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“[This is not] an automatic green light,” said Dimitris Avramopoulos, the commissioner for interior affairs, reported in French newspaper Le Monde. “[The absence of border controls] are the real essence of the EU [and ending this] would signal the beginning of the end of Europe.”

The Schengen Agreement, which was signed in 1985, and its more recent addition, the Schengen Convention agreement (1990), permit and encourage countries within the Area - including France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Italy, and most other European states - to allow travellers to pass between them with reduced border controls, requiring neither a passport nor a visa.

Norway and Switzerland also participate in the Agreement, despite not being EU members.

This is in contrast to visitors to the UK and Ireland, for example - these countries were allowed to opt out of Schengen -, who must always show passports or equivalent photo ID) upon entry.

Schengen has previously been disputed: in 2015 it was suggested that Greece should be expelled from the area; and in 2012, then-President of France Nicholas Sarkozy threatened to take France out of the agreement if its “safety clauses” were not revised.

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