At its today’s sitting, the European Union Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) supported Estonia’s positions on the European Union external border management package. Among other things, the package calls for modification of the Schengen Borders Code and checking of citizens at the external borders of the EU.
Chairman of the European Union Affairs Committee Kalle Palling said that these changes had been expected for a long time. They would contribute to the mitigation of the migration crisis that has hit Europe. “The Schengen Area is sustainable only when its external border is effectively guarded and protected,” Palling said. “The external border management package is necessary in order to ensure that the countries that guard the external border of the EU responsibly would not be endangered by the countries that ignore the agreed-upon rules.”
Members of the Committee noted that checking of citizens at the external borders of the EU may cause lines, for example, at airports. Palling said that the Schengen Borders Code regulation extended to all, but a Member State may make exceptions and carry out only targeted checks. In his opinion, the lines in Estonia will not become significantly longer with the present volume of border crossings.
The European Union border management package consists of four parts. Besides establishing a standard European travel document for return of aliens illegally staying in the country, modification of the Schengen Borders Code and checking of EU citizens at the external borders of the EU, it also requires more effective cooperation between the EU agencies responsible for activities at sea. The package also provides for the establishment of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.
By today, the Member States have agreed to form an additional 1500-member border guard unit, where Estonia would contribute with up to 20 members. The unit will be formed on the basis of the resources of Member States.
Regarding the example of Greece, Palling said that earlier the Member States could not send sufficient assistance to the region because Greece had not formally asked for assistance. Pursuant to the new order, the Member States will be able to intervene when one Member State endangers the functioning of the Schengen Area.
The Agency that will be established will get a comprehensive and effective survey in order to be able to ascertain whether there are any weaknesses in the border management of Member States, so that it would be possible to prevent a situation where the growth of migration flows would cause serious problems on the external border.
The Member States wish to reach a common position on the border management package by the end of the first half of this year.
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