Minister discusses proposal to restore border controls
European Union – Fight against terrorism/migration/Schengen agreements – Remarks to the press by M. Gérard Collomb, Ministre d’Etat, Minister of the Interior, following the Justice and Home Affairs Council
Brussels, 14 September 2017
France/restoration of border controls
Q. – Can you explain to us France’s proposal to restore border controls in the event of terrorism and tell us how it was received by your opposite numbers?
THE MINISTER – As you know, the problem of terrorism in France is still more acute because since the beginning of the year we’ve prevented 12 attacks. We know this terrorism crosses borders because we can see significant movements, as we’ve seen for example between Belgium and France. We also know that the terrorists who committed the Barcelona attacks came through France. So we’ve got to have the means to go on controlling borders when necessary. I raised the issue a while ago with my German colleague Thomas de Maizière. European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos confirmed that the European Commission would indeed like to take an initiative to relax the Schengen [Borders] Code, obviously without undermining free movement, but allowing us to carry out checks at national borders where there’s a risk of terrorism.
Q. – Today – it’s already happened – border control has been restored, so it can be done; what will it change?
THE MINISTER – Our current renewed controls end at the beginning of November because the Schengen Borders Code currently sets a time limit. The idea we’re developing is for member states to be able to go on maintaining controls for a bit longer if necessary. We’ve proposed a period of two years.
Q. – How is the proposal being received by the member states?
THE MINISTER – The proposal, which at first only our two countries – France and Germany – supported is backed by many countries today. I think it will be received favourably.
Q. – Do you expect to get the green light by 15 November, i.e. by the next JHA Council?
THE MINISTER – We’d like to get support as soon as possible. As you probably know, we’re pushing through legislation today in France on security and the fight against terrorism because we’re going to end the state of emergency. We’ve decided to abolish it. At the same time, we’re supporting legislation which protects people, and in which we also talk about checks in the border areas. But we’d like the issue of the EU’s internal border controls to be addressed at European level.
Q. – A question on resettlements; President Macron is very proactive on this. Has France already made concrete proposals about a number of places [to be made available] for refugees who are to be resettled straightaway in Africa, as the Commission is asking for?
THE MINISTER – My Italian colleague and I talked about how to deal with this problem together. President Macron is saying that we must take in a certain number of refugees. The idea is both to halt the flow of economic migrants from Libya’s coast and prevent the building on Libya’s shoreline of camps, where living conditions are pretty much the worst you can experience, and allow people to return to their country, and at the same time set up in Agadez, i.e. the gateway to Niger, from where people are heading to Libya, a sort of block which stops hundreds of thousands of migrants passing through. With the UNHCR, we’ve also got to ensure that any refugees – that is, those able to claim asylum in Europe – can be welcomed in France and Europe. It’s a balanced political choice.
Q. – Has France already proposed a number of places?
THE MINISTER – We’ve already been working with our Italian and Greek colleagues, who, as you know, have experienced significant difficulties, so that we can welcome to France a number of those, eligible for asylum in our country, who could indeed come here. The work will go on.
Q. – What’s your reply to Jean-Claude Juncker when he calls for the Schengen agreements to be extended to include Romania and Bulgaria?
THE MINISTER – This is something President Macron will very probably be discussing with him. Thank you./.