The Schengen system has been at the centre of sharp controversy throughout 2011 and the early months of 2012 arising from attempts by several member state governments to challenge the right to the free movement of persons and the abolition of internal border checks. The speech delivered by Nicolas Sarkozy early this month (March 2012), as part of the French presidential campaign, in which he threatened to suspend France’s participation in Schengen illustrates this phenomenon. This paper examines the European Commission’s response to the Schengen controversies, namely the Schengen Goverance Package published in September 2011 and currently under negotiation in Council and the European Parliament. It assesses the scope and added value of the Package’s two new legislative proposals (a new Schengen evaluation mechanism and revised rules for restating internal border checks) by looking at the origins and features of the debate surrounding liberty of circulation in the Schengen area. The paper addresses the following questions: first, are these new rules necessary and appropriate to effectively respond to unlawful security derogations and restrictions to liberty of circulation? Second, would their adoption provide an effective response to current and future political tensions and national governments’ policies against free movement, such as those evidenced in 2011 and 2012 and for them to expand to other member states? And finally, is the Schengen Governance Package well designed to safeguard the free movement of persons, or is it rather oriented towards further strengthening the security apparatus of Schengen?
Sergio Carrera is Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Justice and Home Affairs Research Programme at CEPS.