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EU Aims to Make Schengen ‘Largest Free Travel Area in the World’

European Commission Chief Spokesperson Eric Mamer; Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas; European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson. Photo source: European Union / Photographer: Claudio Centonze

The European Commission tabled a strategy this week aimed at establishing the Schengen zone into the largest free travel area in the world, ensuring security and mobility while boosting its resilience to new challenges.

The new strategy aims to ensure the free flow of people, goods and services which is key for Europe’s recovery in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis, said the Commission.

The plan includes incorporating the latest in IT technologies to improve external border management, enhancing police cooperation and common migration management to help reinforce the Schengen area without border checks.

“Today’s strategy will foster the trust and governance to allow us to better anticipate, prepare and react, and I am committed to making sure all member states play their part,” said Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson.

The Commission also presented a proposal to revise the Schengen evaluation and monitoring mechanism.

Close up Schengen visa in the passport. Photo ©AP Images/European Union-EP

“Unfettered movement within the Schengen area is essential to our European way of life. Schengen is a well-oiled machine but like any machine, to stand the test of time, its foundations need to be constantly shored up and strengthened,” said Margaritis Schinas, vice-president Promoting European Way of Life.

“Today we are setting out a new way forward that ensures the security and mobility of EU citizens while boosting Schengen’s resilience to challenges,” he added.

The Schengen area is home to more than 420 million people in 26 countries.

“We are determined to restore full free movement in the Schengen area whilst reinforcing the management of our external borders. Uncoordinated, blanket closures should not jeopardise one of the biggest achievements of European integration. Schengen works, needs targeted reforms,” said Schinas.

With its strategy, the Commission examines the challenges faced by the Schengen area and sets out a path forward that maintains the benefits of Schengen.

It calls on all EU members to take common action in this direction.

Key to the smooth operation of the Schengen area are ensuring the effective management of the EU’s external borders; strengthening internal measures to compensate for the absence of internal border controls, in particular on police cooperation, security, and migration management; and improving preparedness and governance, including the completion of Schengen.

“The freedom to move, live and work in different member states is a freedom Europeans hold dearly… Today, we are presenting a way forward that makes sure that Schengen can bear the test of time, one that will ensure the free flow of people, goods and services whatever the circumstances to rebuild our economies and for us to emerge stronger together,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

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