The EU has ruled that Germany and a handful of other states will be allowed to keep their temporary border controls for three more months. Controls were reinstated last year to stem the flow of undocumented migrants.
Germany and a handful of other European states will be allowed to keep their temporary border controls for another three months, the European Union ruled on Friday.
Along with Austria, Denmark, Sweden and non-EU Norway, Germany reimposed partial border controls last year to stem the flow of undocumented migrants travelling through Europe. All the countries are members of the free-travel Schengen area but have been allowed by the EU to introduce border checks along the migrant route as an exceptional measure.
The five countries were scheduled to lift the border checks on November 15. However, the European Council, made up of the heads of the 28 EU member states, approved the proposal put forward by the European Commission. It said the temporary checks are allowed to be extended by "at most three months."
After mid-February, the countries should reinstate unrestricted freedom to travel as soon as possible, said Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kalinak. Slovakia currently holds the rotating presidency in the European Council.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière had advocated prolonging border controls on Germany's border to Austria. In October, he explained that controls could only be loosened when the EU's external border had been fully secured or when the member states had sufficient resources to accommodate all refugees in Europe.
Germany was the first EU member state to reimpose border controls along its border with Austria in September 2015.
Extension met with backlash
Not all countries welcomed the proposal. Hungary, Slovenia and Greece voted against the extension, while Bulgaria and Cyprus abstained.
The Greek government argued that its own border was sufficiently controlled, making the chance of more migrants crossing Greece into EU states minimal. EU home affairs commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos advised against prolonging the controls once again after mid-February.
Hungary warned that prolonging the internal controls could lead to a "breakdown of the Schengen system." Rather than internal borders, Hungarian officials said the EU should focus on its external border.
The Schengen area incorporates 26 countries, including non-EU members Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. People and goods can normally travel freely without border checks between states that have signed on to the agreement.
dm/rc (Reuters, dpa)