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EU Commission calls meeting on Sweden's new border checks

Updated tisdag 5 januari 2016 kl 19.19
Published tisdag 5 januari 2016 kl 17.17
"It's worse now after Sweden's decision."
(4:21 min)
The European Commission and Swedish Justice and Migration Minister Morgan Johansson, Photo: Lars Schröder/ TT
Swedish Justice and Migration Minister Morgan Johansson will be visiting the European Commission, Photo: Lars Schröder/ TT

Sweden’s introduction on Monday of ID checks for passengers coming from Denmark was a sudden break in the Schengen zone's free passage, as well as a 50 year old Nordic tradition, as the Swedish government sought to slow down the influx of refugees here.

Now the EU Commission is calling a special meeting to discuss the issue.

The Swedish move led to neighboring Denmark introducing spot checks of ID cards on its border with Germany, which in turn prompted the German foreign ministry to warn that the Schengen agreement permitting free movement within parts of the European Union was in serious danger.

Ministers and officials from Sweden, Denmark, and Germany have now been called to a special meeting Wednesday morning at the European Commission in Brussels to discuss the situation. Swedish Justice and Migration Minister Morgan Johansson will be joined by Danish Integration Minister Inger Støjberg, and Ole Schröder, parliamentary state secretary at the German Interior Ministry.

Swedish Radio News says the commission will also be investigating the legality of the Swedish border checks.

“The goal of the meeting is to discuss the newly introduced laws from Sweden and Demark,” says Tove Ernst, spokesperson for migration issues at the European Commission. “This includes the ID checks and how the countries can improve their common management of the refugee crisis.”

The commission stresses that exemptions from the Schengen rules are only permitted if there are serious threats to public order or internal security. Sweden’s introduction of border checks will be scrutinized to see if it is in compliance.

Peo Hansen is a professor in political science at Linköping University, and the author of a book about European Union migration policies over the past half century. He tells Swedish Radio’s P1 Morgon program that there has been a gradual deterioration in free movement within the EU since the refugee crisis began.

“It’s worse now after Sweden’s decision,” he says. “But things were getting worse ever since the disunity within the EU on how to deal with the refugees began. So there’s been a gradual decline and reversal of the system.”

Peo Hansen says the crisis management policies of different EU countries conflict with each other. When Sweden added ID checks to reduce the number of asylum seekers, Denmark was forced to act, to avoid risking many refugees without ID cards ending  up there.

The Danish ID reviews are different from the Swedish in that they are only random checks, and are carried out by the police and not by transport operators.

Germany has taken other measures, in order to quickly screen out refugees without valid grounds for asylum. But Germany is also carrying out random ID checks on its border with Austria.

“Germany has added new measures successively over several months now,” Peo Hansen says. “Angela Merkel was very clear in her New Year’s speech, and said that their policies are firm. But she also said the German government will take measures to reduce the numbers of refugees.”

Ordinarily there are no border checks between the countries in the Schengen area, even if travelers do have to carry national ID cards or passports. That’s part of the basic idea of the EU’s single market. But now, Peo Hansen says, not only is the free movement of people under threat, but also the single market itself .

“Schengen and the free movement of people has in many ways been driven by a desire for a more flexible and mobile economy,” he says. “People see what has been happening as a threat. And it’s also a threat against much of the EU ideas about the single market.”

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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