The European Parliament has voted in favour of once again allowing border checks in countries that have signed up to the Schengen Treaty. The treaty was drawn up to do away with such formalities and allow people to travel freely across the Schengen Zone (UK excluded) once they had undergone passport formalities at a frontier post on the outer border.
In future it will be possible to reintroduce border checks for a limited period of time and in certain circumstances, but the European Commission will have to give its permission too. The checks can be reintroduced when major events are being staged, if there is a terrorist attack or when a major problem involving checking a border materialises that cannot be sorted in any other way.
The European U-turn can have important advantages for Belgium as it clamps down on cross border crime in the provinces of West Flanders and Limburg.
Flemish Euro MP Ivo Belet (Christian democrat) believes that the new arrangement can help to tackle serious cross border crime in these two Flemish provinces: “When there is insufficient co-operation between police services in different countries, border checks may be needed once again.”
Mr Belet was keen to emphasize that the checks should only used as ‘an ultimate weapon’ that can be employed to create a shock effect and put an issue at the top of the European agenda.