The European Council adopted the updated Schengen Borders Code

The reform is crucial in making the Schengen area more resilient to current and future crises at its external borders


26. May 2024.

The European Council gave final approval to the new Schengen Borders Code, the EU regulation dealing with the management of internal and external borders, as well as the rules governing border control of persons crossing the EU's external borders. The reform is crucial in making the Schengen area more resilient to current and future crises at its external borders. It also ensures that people living and traveling in the European Union can fully enjoy the benefits of borderless travel.

The regulation introduces the possibility of adopting measures at the EU level that limit the access of third-country nationals to the EU in the event of a large-scale public health emergency. It also establishes a transfer procedure that will help solve the secondary movement of migrants (from one member state to another) and offers solutions for situations of instrumentalization of migration. Clarifications to the rules on the reintroduction of border controls will ensure that they remain a measure of last resort.

"Traveling through the Schengen area without border checks is one of the main achievements of the EU. By voting on the update, we have given member states the tools to maintain border-free travel within the Schengen area, while securing external borders, tackling irregular migration and risks to public health", said Annelies Verlinden, Belgian Minister of the Interior.

Main elements

In the event of a large-scale public health emergency, the new rules provide the possibility - following a decision by the Council - to introduce harmonized temporary travel restrictions at the EU's external border. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU could only issue non-binding recommendations regarding travel restrictions to member states. In addition to travel restrictions, the Council can also impose testing, quarantine and self-isolation and other health measures for non-EU citizens entering the EU.

In order to fight against the instrumentalization of migration, the amended Schengen Borders Code will offer member states the possibility of limiting the number of border crossings or reducing their working hours, and enable increased border control measures.

The revised Schengen Borders Code clarifies the existing framework for the reintroduction and extension of internal border controls, which is possible when there is a serious threat to public policy or internal security. The member states will have to assess the necessity and proportionality of this decision and assess whether the goals sought cannot be achieved in other ways.

Moreover, the revised regulation establishes the maximum duration during which these internal border controls can be maintained. Internal border controls may remain in place for a maximum of two years before being reintroduced. In exceptional situations, internal border controls can be extended for an additional six months, with the possibility of renewal once for a total duration of one year.

The possibility of using alternative measures, which usually consist of police checks and cross-border cooperation, should encourage Member States to significantly limit the reintroduction of temporary border controls. These measures must be clearly distinguished from systematic checks on persons at the external borders.

In addition, the new transfer procedure will allow a Member State to transfer third-country nationals who are arrested in the border area and illegally staying on its territory to the Member State from which they arrived directly. Apprehension should take place in the context of the framework of bilateral cooperation.

This Regulation enters into force on the twentieth day from the date of its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. It is directly applicable in EU countries.

Source: European Council


26. May 2024.