The Schengen evaluation and monitoring mechanism, in place to monitor the implementation of the Schengen acquis, was strengthened to ensure an effective, consistent and transparent application of the Schengen rules and regulations by the Schengen Member States, while at the same time maintaining a high level of mutual trust between those Member States.
The strengthened mechanism covers all aspects of the Schengen acquis, including external borders, visa policy, the Schengen Information System, data protection, police cooperation, judicial cooperation in criminal matters, as well as the absence of border control at the internal borders and the functioning of the authorities applying the relevant parts of the Schengen acquis. It, furthermore, introduces the possibility to carry out unannounced on-site visits and gives clearer rules for the set up and adoption of evaluation reports and recommendations, as well as for the follow-up of identified deficiencies in Member State's external border control. At the same time, the Commission is given an overall coordinating role for the organization and implementation of the mechanism. This role is to be executed in close cooperation with the Member States.
In practice, the strengthening of the mechanism translates in Schengen evaluations to Member States implemented based on a multi-annual and an annual evaluation programme - for the period 2015-2019, 5 to 7 Member States will be evaluated each year, beginning in 2015 with the evaluation of Austria, Belgium, Germany, Liechtenstein and the Netherlands - and resulting in evaluation reports with concrete recommendations for remedial action. Subsequently, the Member State concerned is required to submit an action plan setting out how it intends to remedy the weaknesses identified. The implementation of the plan will be reviewed on a regular basis. In addition, Member States can be assisted in fulfilling the recommendations via practical and/or financial measures from the Commission, Frontex or other EU bodies. Possible re-visits will allow ensuring that the changes have been implemented.
In the exceptional circumstances where persistent serious deficiencies in a Member State's control of its external borders have been identified and when it is clear that measures taken by the evaluated Member State are not sufficient to ensure the adequate remedy of these deficiencies, border controls may be reintroduced temporarily. However, this is a step of last resort and would be used only if all other measures like operational support from Frontex were ineffective in mitigating a serious threat.