Schengen reform: Parliament strikes back
By Nathalie Vandystadt | Thursday 14 June 2012
In his 18 years as a member of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz has never seen the institution he now presides take such retaliation measures. All the political groups, with the exception of the ECR Eurosceptics, decided to shelve five texts on justice and home affairs until the Council of Ministers returns the European Parliament’s power of co-decision on the entire Schengen reform (see
Without going as far as referring the matter to the EU Court of Justice – the Council would first have to adopt a formal decision – Parliament intends with this measure to counter the “unilateral” decision by the 27 justice ministers to do without their legal agreement on the new mechanism for evaluating the working of the Schengen area. “No national parliament would agree to being excluded from a legislative procedure,” Schulz said in plenary, on 14 June in Strasbourg.
The Danish Presidency is in the EP’s sights for having suggested a change in the legal basis of the Commission’s initial proposal so as to maintain a Schengen system dominated by the states. In the two reform texts, the Commission proposed to play a decisive role in decisions to reintroduce controls at intra-European borders in order to prevent unilateral national decisions, as illustrated, in early 2011, by the quarrel between Italy and France over the massive arrivals of Tunisian immigrants in Italy.
The five reports concern technical amendments to the Schengen system, cyber crime, the European investigation order, the 2013 budget for internal security policy and the debate on a European storage system for air passenger data.
The chairs of the EP political groups also removed from the agenda of the July plenary the votes on the issue that triggered the dispute, the Schengen evaluation mechanism, and the report on reform of the Schengen Code, which is still under co-decision.
In the afternoon of 14 June, the Danish Presidency issued a statement, in which it “regrets that the European Parliament has decided to suspend cooperation with the Council on a few but important files. On behalf of the Council the Presidency of course intends to continue the good cooperation in all other areas,” the statement said.Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said she found it “wise” of Parliament not to put the two reports on Schengen reform on the July plenary session agenda. She called on the Council to “devote some time for reflection” and “not to formalise any decision”.
The EP is defending its credibility in this case against a Council that seems increasingly jealous of its powers (see interview), especially on an issue like home affairs, where the Lisbon Treaty makes co-decision virtually the general rule. “This underhanded tactic is a scandal. It sets a dangerous precedent that will undermine the democratic process in the EU. The Council should take this reprimand very seriously and with the benefit of hindsight. Otherwise the EP will have to consider new measures to defend Schengen and the EU’s democratic process,” reads a statement by Greens Co-Chair Daniel Cohn-Bendit (France).