Covid-19 bends the rules on internal border controls: Yet another crisis undermining the Schengen acquis?

Free movement within the Schengen Area has been challenged in recent years by national measures: from internal border checks after the ‘migration crisis’ to the closure of borders in the Covid-19 crisis.

This is the first time in the history of Schengen that member states have categorically refused entry to other EU citizens who are not registered residents or cross-border workers.

Seventeen Schengen countries have submitted a notification on reintroducing internal border control due to Covid-19: Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Switzerland.

The use of Schengen provisions was creative: 12 states justified their internal border controls as a case requiring immediate action (Art. 28), France and Denmark expanded their already existing internal border controls (Art. 25), Finland appealed to the ‘foreseeable event’ clause (Art. 25), and Slovakia and Poland introduced ‘healthcare-police measures’ (Art. 23) before launching border controls (Art. 28).

The crisis illustrates the need to reform Schengen in order to maintain the legitimacy of commonly agreed rules.

Saila Heinikoski

Senior Research Fellow – The European Union research programme

Covid-19 European Union Finnish foreign policy Human rights Multilateralism Nordic cooperation en FIIA Briefing Paper

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