Since 2006, the agreement on free movement in Europe has been suspended 116 times. Italy reintroduced border controls for the G8 in Genoa, in 2001, for the G8 in L’Aquila, in 2009, and for the G7 in Taormina, in 2017
Due to the emergency of the coronavirus, there is renewed talk of the suspension of freedom of movement guaranteed by the Schengen Treaty. The treaty, which takes its name from the city in Luxembourg where it was initially signed, provides for the free movement of people within the countries that have signed it. But all countries may, for exceptional reasons, temporarily reintroduce border controls.
Due to the emergency of the coronavirus, there is renewed talk of suspending the Schengen Treaty. In fact, the reintroduction of border controls in signatory countries is provided for by the rules of the code in exceptional cases (in Article 23), but it can only be temporary, proportionate, and justified. For example, it is used in the event of a threat to public order or national security. The EU Commission can express an opinion, but cannot impose a veto.
Why Free Movement Is Suspended
Since 2006, the Schengen Treaty on free movement has been suspended 116 times, according to Commission figures. The first country on the EU executive’s list was France: eight hours, on October 21, 2006, for demonstrations by young Basque radicals in Saint-Pee-Sur-Nivelle and Bayonne.
Prior to the migrant emergency, the Treaty was mostly suspended during major sporting events and international summits, which bring together world leaders in the same place and become high-risk locations for terrorism. Italy reintroduced border controls for the G8 in Genoa, in 2001, for the G8 in L’Aquila, in 2009, and for the G7 in Taormina, in 2017. Belgium suspended free movement for the 2000 European Championships and Portugal for those of 2004; Austria in 2008 and France in 2016. Norway suspended the treaty for the Nobel Prize ceremony in 2009 and 2012; Estonia for the U.S. president’s visit in 2014; and Spain for the wedding of the then crown prince, now King Felipe.
In recent years, most of the suspensions have been related to terrorism and the migrant emergency: Schengen was suspended in Norway and Sweden in July 2011, after the massacre on the island of Utoya; after the attacks in Paris in November 2015, France ordered border controls until October 2018. Between 2015 and 2016, they did the same, but to limit the flow of migrants: Hungary, Slovenia, Germany, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Then, putting at risk the free movement in Europe had been the agreement in the German government on rejections. Austria, in the event of a border closure by Berlin, said it was ready to armor the Brenner Pass.
The agreement, which came into force in 1995, establishes within the common area the abolition of internal borders in favor of the free movement of persons. The agreement also provides for the application of common rules and procedures regarding visas, short stays, asylum requests, and border controls; the strengthening of cooperation and coordination between police services and judicial authorities; the creation and development of the Schengen Information System (SIS), a sophisticated database that allows the competent authorities to exchange data regarding the identity of persons and goods. Thanks to the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997, Schengen cooperation was incorporated into the legislative framework of the European Union (EU).
The convention was initially signed by Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, but 22 EU countries have gradually joined: in addition to the initial signatories, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Greece, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Malta.
Four countries that are not in the EU (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) have joined, adhering to the free movement of persons. Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, and Romania are not yet full members. The United Kingdom and Ireland have asked to participate only in certain aspects: in particular, police judicial cooperation in criminal matters, the fight against drug trafficking, and the SIS.