Passport-free travel is heading for an end

European interior ministers agree to radical revision of Schengen

13th May 2011: Passport-free travel is heading for an end.

Amid apprehensions of a wave of migrants fleeing unrest in north Africa, the European interior ministers have agree to radical revision of Schengen

The change was backed by a majority of member states at a special meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels.

The change would permit individual nations to restore controls at their borders. Once implemented, it would restrain passport-free travel for more than 400 million people in 25 countries.

The unrest in North Africa has activated a huge movement of migrants to Europe. Many head first to the Italian island of Lampedusa, which lies about 120km (75 miles) off the Tunisian coast.

Reports had started to pour in that officials from both countries have made an agreement on altering the Schengen treaty so that national border checks can be reintroduced.

The 1995 Schengen treaty allows legal residents of most EU countries, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland to travel across the zone without visas.

At the ministers met on Thursday, as many as 15 states voted in favour of provisional return of border guards to deal with any abrupt increase in migration.
The ministers further extended their support to the reintroduction of the guards, if an EU state failed to control its frontier with non-EU nations.

French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said a very wide consensus, if not near unanimity, was reached on the commission proposals.

The measures will now  be brought up for discussion at an EU summit of prime minsters scheduled to be held on June 24. It would also have to pass through the European Parliament. It is likely to face resistance there.


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