The European Union (EU) will revamp the Schengen system, with a new strategy to be tabled in months, as part of a broader effort to fight terrorism, a top official of the bloc announced.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said a first Schengen Forum would take place at the end of this month to exchange views that will lead to the publication of a new Schengen strategy in May 2021,
The Schengen Area comprises 26 European countries that allow passport-free travel between them.
It comprises 22 of the 27 EU states plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
She said the issue of a well-functioning Schengen area was at the top of the agenda at the home affairs ministers’ virtual meeting on Friday, with many ministers mentioning the importance of protecting the EU’s external borders.
The meeting was held against the backdrop of the recent terrorist attacks in France and Austria and on the fifth anniversary of Paris’s attacks.
On November 13, 2015, a series of terrorist attacks took place in Paris and the city’s northern suburb, during which some 130 people were killed in several mass shootings and suicide bombings.
“These are attacks on our common European values and our fundamental rights. We stand against these attacks as we did five years ago, as a single society,” she said.
Johansson said the existing proposals and security initiatives developed over the years have to pass through the European Parliament and the Council of the EU with urgency, especially the proposals for a regulation on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online.
Besides, border guards and police must be able to cross-check identity documents against all relevant information systems.
Achieving the inter-operability of the systems by 2023 will be a priority at all levels, she said.
In a study that Frontex carried out last year, the commissioner mentioned that 22 percent of those entering the Schengen area were not checked towards the Schengen information system.
“So here is room for improvement,” she added.