Statewatch article: RefNo# 2388
Schengen: Executive Committee meeting (feature)
Statewatch bulletin, vol 8 nos 3 & 4
The Schengen Executive Committee met in Ostend on 23 June under the Presidency of Belgium. On 1 July the Presidency will be taken over by Germany, not for six months but unusually for the whole year. This will that between 1 January - 30 June 1999 Germany will holds the Presidencies of the EU and of Schengen.

The Committee noted that the Presidency of the EU (then the UK) had been sent a copy of the Schengen acquis. The Ministers agreed "in principle" to set up a Standing Committee to evaluate and implement Schengen both in the existing members of Schengen and in "aspiring" states - based on reports from the Visiting Committees (which visited Italy, Austria and Greece in 1997). Greece exercised its right (under Article 132.3) to call for a two months delay on the final decision.

The Ministers also reached "political agreement" that the Task Force against "illegal immigration flows" should be continued and extended to cover "measures to combat such flows from whatever source".

On 24 June the Executive Committee met with the Interior Ministers of the applicant countries seeking EU membership - first wave: Poland Hungary, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Estonia and Cyprus and the second wave: Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia. The EU (and Schengen) have only just agreed what is in the Schengen acquis and have yet to decide how its various provisions and decisions are all to be incorporated into the two EU-wide treaties - TEC and TEU - let alone what the legal force of each is to be. All the applicant countries have to adopt and implement the Schengen acquis prior to accession.

The conclusions of the meeting with the applicant countries said that the Schengen states considered the protection of external borders covers: a "security strategy" to "fight" against migratory pressures at every stage of the process; "threats and risks are tackled at their source" beginning in the "immigrant's country of origin"; to carry out, without fail, controls at road and rail crossings, airports and seaports checking documents, verifying whether the person has authority to enter, and whether their particulars "have been noted in the Schengen Information System".

Annual report

In 1997 the Schengen area extended from seven countries - Germany, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain and Portugal - to ten - with Italy, Austria, Greece joining. Sweden, Denmark and Finland have also agreed to join and Norway and Iceland are to be given associate membership (to retain the Nordic Passport Union area). During 1997 the land border control with Italy and Austria were maintained until 31 March 1998. The Schengen Convention was brought into force for Greece but "controls at the internal borders to this Schengen state have not yet been lifted" (in effect, for flights and sea crossings with other Schengen members). Operational connections with the Schengen Information System (SIS) from 26.10.97 for Italy, 1.12.97 for Austria, and 8.12.97 for Greece. A decision to lift these controls will be taken before the end of 1998. France continued to exercise its right to control its land borders with Belgium and Luxembourg (Article 2.2).

The report expresses concern at the effectiveness with the controls at Schengen external borders when confronted by "a large influx of immigrants from eastern Turkey, northern Iraq and Iran" - a clear reference to Kurdish people as well as people from Pakistan and Bangla Desh (see story on EU Action Plan in this issue). These "immigrant flows" came via either the Mediterranean route (Greece, Italy and France) or the land Balkan route (Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic) then into or through Germany and Austria. The Schengen states have appointed a Task Force but despite deploying "considerable resources it appears difficult to guarantee total watertightness at this type of border".

Annual report - Schengen Information System (SIS) and SIRENE

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