Border checks to be lifted "as soon as possible"
At a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, Sweden and Denmark agreed that the temporary border controls and ID-checks introduced this week would be scrapped as soon as possible - but only when the flow of refugees has been reduced.
The EU Migration Commussioner Dimitris Avramopoulos called the extra meeting, after Sweden on Monday started demanding valid photo-IDs from anyone wanting to enter the country from Denmark, and Denmark only hours later introduced temporary border controls to Germany.
The measures challenge the passport-free Schengen zone in the EU, but according to Sweden's Migration Minister Morgan Johansson there were no objections to the Swedish measures at the meeting.
"The commission and the rest of Europe understands very well what the situation has been like, he told Swedish Radio News after the meeting.
And at a press conference after the meeting, there seemed to be a broad agreement between Migration Commissioner Avramopoulus, Migration Minister Johansson and his Danish and German colleagues Inger Støjberg and Ole Schröder.
"We all agreed that Schengen and the free movement must be safeguarded both for citizens and for the economy" said EU commissioner Avramopoulos.
"Exceptional measures, as you know, have been taken. We agreed to keep them to a minimum, and return to normal as soon as possible. This means that flows (of refugees) have to be slowed down. The only way forward is a European solution with all 28 member states, in order to protect borders, respect rules and ensure re-location (of refugees)," said Avramopoulos.
The Danish minister Inger Støjberg said that Denmark has introduced the temporary border controls on the border to Germany but is not yet following the Swedish example of introducing what is known as carrier liability, which means that transport companies are responsible for ensuring that all passengers travelling to Sweden are carrying valid photo-IDs.
"We have not, for now, introduced carrier liability," said Støjberg "But we are monitoring the situation hour by hour and if necessary we will put on the carrier liability into force and that can happen with very short notice.
"That is because in Denmark we do not wish to be the final destination for thousands and thousands of asylum seekers," she said.
In the first 11 months of last year, Denmark registered some 18,000 new asylum seekers. This is significantly less than the 163,000 asylum seekers that came to Sweden last year. In his statement at the press conference, Sweden's migration Minister Morgan Johansson made sure to stress the extent of the Swedish commitment so far.
"We had 115,000 asylum seekers in Sweden in four months. And if I just count the unaccompanied children and minors, there came 26,000 unaccompanied minors and children to Sweden and that is 1,000 school classes arriving in Sweden in four months. So it tells you a little bit how the situation was in the autumn. I don't want to get back to that situation again and that is why we have had to put these measures in place," said Johansson.
The law passed in December means these measures are in place for six months, but the could be extended - or even revoked, if that is deemed possible, said Johansson, noting that they "should not be in place longer than we need". Like his colleagues from Denmark and Germany, Johansson called for better co-operation in Europe over migration.
"We need measures to slow down the highway that has now been introduced right through Europe via Greece, Balkans, Austria, Germany and then up to the Nordic countries. We must also have measures to strengthen the outer borders of the European Union," he said, calling for all member states to share the responsibility and for a system where refugees are relocated across the union.
At times, there has been harsh exchanges and accusations over migration policies between the Swedish and Danish governments, but at the press conference the two ministers stood side by side and also announced that they would meet again later this month to discuss the situation.
While Sweden is the country in Europe that has received most refugees per capita, Germany is the country that has by far taken in the biggest number of refugees. Last year 1,1 million people applied for asylum in Germany. 400,000 of them came from Syria.
But at the press conference, there was no objections from Germany to the new Swedish or Danish measures. Ole Schröder from the German Interior Ministry said his government was grateful to Danmark and Sweden "for the very transparent information in advance" about what was coming. Like his Swedish colleague, he called for a better system to relocate refugees between EU-member states, and he also spoke of the importance of better border control.
"It is important to name cause and effect in the right order. Our problem in Europe at the moment is that we do not have a functioning border control system especially at the Greece-Turkey border," said Ole Schröder.
"As long as we are not able to reach European solutions, we will come to (separate) measures from the member states," he said.