The Minister of Internal Affairs today considered that greater control at the internal borders of the Schengen area, during the first months of the pandemic, was not effective in containing the new coronavirus.
“At the level of internal borders, Portugal considers that the increase in border controls was not effective in stopping the virus, still creating problems for the internal market”, said Eduardo Cabrita.
This assessment was made by the Portuguese government official during the 1st Schengen Forum, which today brought together by videoconferences ministers of the European Union (EU) Internal Administration, members of the European Parliament and members of the European Commission.
During his speech, Eduardo Cabrita considered that the response of the member states to the current health crisis should be coordinated and rejected unilateral measures against movement in the Schengen Area, defending instead the adoption of common criteria, in coordination with the ministries. Health and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
“What we have seen happening all over Europe, with the imposition of quarantine on European citizens or with unilateral obligations to present PCR [diagnostic tests to covid-19] for entry into some countries, is not an effective way to fight against the disease, ”he said.
Speaking to Lusa, after the meeting, the minister explained that this is one of the factors that threatens to jeopardize the Schengen Area, which he classified as “one of the EU’s greatest achievements”, accompanied by other issues such as the prevention of terrorism and the management of irregular migratory flows at the external borders.
On this point, in his intervention at the forum, the minister considered that the controls there are “one of the main objectives to keep the Schengen Area functioning”.
“That is why it makes us happy that, during the Portuguese Presidency of the EU, we can start to see the European Border and Coast Guard working with more skills. And in our Presidency, we will give due importance to this new achievement of European policies”, he stressed.
Also for the management of external borders, the government defended common criteria, which must still be reinforced, in this case in the entry of citizens of third countries, through land, air and maritime borders.
Eduardo Cabrita assured that the country is committed to the development of the new Asylum and Migration Pact, adding, however, that migration cannot be seen only as a problem of border control.
“We must take a broader approach, including the external dimension of necessary cooperation with Europe’s neighbouring countries in promoting their development and preventing trafficking in human beings, but also in preventing transit between these neighbouring countries destined for Europe ”, he explained during the meeting.
The Schengen Forum will be repeated next year, in April, already during the Portuguese Presidency of the EU, to prepare the legislative proposals that the European Commission intends to present by May, namely the revision of the Schengen Area regulation and the common visa regulation.
At the next meeting, new assessments will also be made on the functioning of internal borders and on the progress of the common external border control process, Eduardo Cabrita told Lusa.
During the meeting, Eduardo Cabrita also underlined the importance of regular discussions on the functioning and strengthening of the Schengen Area, which he classified as “the crown jewel of European integration” also pointing to the strengthening of common values in this context as one of the objectives of the Presidency Portuguese.