The Schengen area, one of the most fundamental and tangible achievements of European integration, has been put under strain in recent years because of the lack of a common European policy on asylum and, more recently, because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Moving freely across internal borders is a daily necessity for millions of Europeans, for work, school or for family reasons. The EU internal market is a crucial competitive advantage for European companies. Schengen will also be Europe’s lifeline when it comes to the economic recovery post-coronavirus. This is why building a more resilient Schengen area is an important priority for 2021.
I want your help to strengthen our freedoms, which we cannot take for granted. That’s why today I’m launching a public consultation on the future of ‘Schengen’, on the future of our common area of freedom, security and justice. So you can help to make Europe stronger and more resilient.
We all want once again to enjoy fully our freedom to move, our freedom to travel. For family and friends, to relax and to discover new areas and regions, but also to work and to study.
In 1985, 5 of the 10 Member States signed an agreement in Schengen, a town in Luxembourg, to abolish controls at their internal borders. Today, 26 European countries and more than 400 million people share an area of freedom, security and justice, without internal frontiers. In time, all EU Member States will join.
Schengen has been a fantastic journey, bringing Europeans closer together, bringing trust. Sharing a common external border means sharing responsibility for internal security, it requires police forces to work closely together.
We have achieved a lot, together. We have the most modern and integrated external border management system in the world. An unprecedented level of police cooperation. Challenges remain, of course, and in particular in the digital space.
It is very important that we restore a fully functioning area of freedom, security and justice. Free movement will also be essential for recovery, as we face one of the greatest economic crises we have ever seen. Fragmentation and the reintroduction of internal border controls will cause huge damage to jobs and growth.
The fourth Portuguese Presidency of the Council comes at an exceptionally important time, 13 years after the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon, to lead further successive steps in the development and consolidation of our common European area of freedom, security and justice. For a European Union of 27 Member States. For a Schengen area of 26 European countries. With the commitment and engagement of all, we can make this objective a reality, together. For Europe.
Your opinion and your contribution counts: you can contribute to the public consultation here.