At the request of France, the Luxembourgish presidency of the Council convened an emergency meeting of EU justice and interior affairs ministers on Friday 20 November. The ministers acknowledged that not enough has been made in the area of homeland security since the January Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. They adopted conclusions calling for several actions to be made as a matter of urgency. Firstly, the ministers called for the Passenger Name Records legislation, at the moment stuck in the EP, to be concluded before the end of 2015 (realistic expectations point to early 2016, though). Although some MEPs want PNR to be as privacy-friendly as possible, the ministers asked for an ambitious regime – including also intra-EU flights, charter flights and broader and longer access to data by enforcement agencies. The ministers also agreed to perform systematic border checks at Schengen´s borders as soon as possible for all persons entering the free travel area. Everybody, including EU passport holders, are to be screened through all relevant anti-terrorism databases. The Commission was asked to present a targeted reform of the Schengen rules to allow for this practice as an ordinary measure, including through the Smart Border package (automated checking terminals for biometric passports could be introduced at all Schengen entries). Also, all asylum-seekers including in hotspots will be screened similarly – Europol will deploy its officers for this purpose. The conclusions also touch on firearms trafficking, information sharing and financing of terrorism.
Proposals for a reduced Schengen, as was reported by Dutch media initially, were not discussed after all and are not on the table for now. Ministers and EU officials agree, at least for the moment, that Schengen as a whole must be better protected, not dissolved.
2nd May 2018