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EU interior ministers meet to save Schengen

January 25, 2016

The Dutch EU presidency has urged states to settle on a new pan-European border force to reinforce external borders. The ministers' gathering comes as the European Council president said Schengen will fail in two months.

De Maiziere calls for action to be taken quickly
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Bruna

EU interior and justice ministers gathered in Amsterdam on Monday for a two-day "informal meeting" aimed at bolstering support for a pan-European border and coast guard force in a bid to relief pressure on the 28-nation bloc's external borders.

The meeting comes amid Europe's largest wave of migration that in 2015 witnessed more than one million migrants, many seeking asylum in the EU after fleeing war-torn countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

The ministers are also expected to discuss ways to boost intelligence cooperation along with counterterrorism measures in the wake of November's terrorist attacks in Paris, which left at least 130 people dead and hundreds injured.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said that actions must be taken quickly in order to preserve the passport-free travel zone.

"We want to preserve Schengen, but it must, however, provide results for a European solution. And fast," de Maiziere said in a statement.

One of the measures to be discussed during the meeting is the use of Article 26 of the Schengen Borders Code, which would allow member states to extend internal border controls beyond the 30-day limit.

The meeting is the first of its kind under the six-month Dutch European Union presidency, which aims to broker a deal on a new border and coast guard force by June 30.

On Sunday, Greek Deputy European Affairs Minister Nikos Xidakis criticized the Austrian interior minister for proposing Greece's "temporary exclusion" from the Schengen passport-free travel zone.

Greece has struggled with the influx of more than 800,000 migrants in 2015, and is considered a gateway for asylum seekers entering the EU.

Last week, European Council President Donald Tusk said Schengen would fail if the migration crisis was not "brought under control" in two months.

ls/jil (AFP, Reuters, ARD)