Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Former Top EU Official Says Schengen Needs Re-examination

French politician Michel Barnier, who previously served as European Commission’s Head of Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom, has called for the re-examination of the Schengen system of free movement between the Member States.

In an interview for France Television this week, Barnier, among others, said that his country, France, should stop immigration for three to five years, while at the same time the EU re-examines the wat the Schengen Area functions.

“We need to talk to our neighbours about the Schengen Agreement, we possibly need to put in stricter border controls,” he said to the television.

Barnier, who, according to several media reporting, will be challenging current French President Emmanuel Macron in next year’s presidential election, so far has been known as a strong advocate of the Schengen area.

During the Brexit talks with the UK, Barnier had accused the now former EU member of “cherry-picking” at the beginning of the negotiations in 2016, after the UK team had tried to retain the “four freedoms” — free movement of goods, capital and people and the freedom to establish and provide services.

Cherry-picking is not an option,” he had said at the time.

His recent comments have, however, been commented by Brexiters, among others, including British politician Nigel Farage, a key Brexit figure, who called Barnier “a Europhile hero becoming a Eurosceptic.”

The chief foreign correspondent of Britain’s Financial Times also commented on Barnier’s statements, saying that Brexit wouldn’t have happened if the EU had permitted “much milder restrictions on the free movement of people.”

Throughout his interview, Barnier, who has also served as a French Foreign Minister, also talked about immigration to France, suggesting that the country needs to rebuild its immigration system and “to take some time over three to five years and suspend immigration.”

I’m not talking about students, I’m not talking about refugees who must be treated with humanity and strength, but we need to rebuild the whole process,” he said, asserting that it might be necessary to renegotiate Schengen rules and reintroduce cross-border controls for EU citizens.

The Schengen Area is often regarded as European Union’s “proudest achievement.” Since the agreement on its establishment was signed 36 years ago, the Schengen Area has never been closer to being suspended than last year, when most of its 26 members introduced internal border controls in a bid to contain the spread of the Coronavirus.

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