The Schengen Agreement
was signed in 1985 and it allowed EU citizens to easily pass from country to country within the Eurozone.
With the current open-borders system, illegal immigration from third-party countries into Europe has become a huge problem, especially during the economic crisis.
According to Reuters
over 90% of illegal immigrants cross the Greek border with Turkey. From there, with no check points between Eurozone countries, it is easy for them to move around.
On Wednesday, Michalis Chisochoidis, Minister for Civil Protection, appealed to the EU to assist in tackling the escalating crisis in Greece.
He said: ''We want obligations from Europe for deals with third-party countries from where migration flows arrive… countries will therefore be forced to reabsorb their citizens, which at the moment they do not do at all"
Now a new bill proposed by France and Germany may impose border security checks in Eurozone countries in an attempt to solve the problem.
The draft bill
states that the 25 countries who are party to the European Schengen agreement might reintroduce border check points for a period of 10 days should they feel there is a threat to public order.
Today European interior ministers are set to meet in Luxemburg to discuss the new Franco-German proposal. At the meeting French Minister Claude Guéant is expected to defend the controversial bill. In an EU press release it states: “The Council is due to approve a roadmap to ensure a coherent EU response to continued migratory pressures.”
On Wednesday, members of the European Parliament also held a separate vote which backed the reintroduction of visa travel for third-country nationals crossing Europe's external borders.
The controversy arises after the first round of French Presidential elections on Sunday, in which immigration issues were widely discussed.
The current President, Nicolas Sarkozy is against the current EU immigration laws and describes the continent as “leaking like a sieve.”
He stressed: "If Europe can't control its borders then France will do so. A Europe that doesn't control its migration flows is finished."
In April last year, France restored border security checks with Italy, after Rome had granted temporary visas to thousands of North Africa immigrants.
Shortly afterwards, Denmark created checkpoints on its borders with Sweden and Germany.
Criticism against the draft legislation
There has been a mixed reaction among EU leaders. The head of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy
condemns the draft bill as a "populist threat sweeping through Europe."
During a visit to Romania on Wednesday, Van Rompuy tweeted "Nationalist and extremist movements are on the rise; many of them blame 'Brussels' for bad news.”
It is also feared that following the new legislation would damage one of the strongest symbols of European unity and perhaps even contribute to the EU's demise.
Despite the worries about illegal immigration, much concern
has been voiced about the possible restriction on EU borders. Critics state that this could be detrimental to European economies and would badly affect the tourism industry.
Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization, Taleb Rifai said at an EU conference on Tuesday that the draft bill would be “very damaging” for tourism.
He stated: “The Schengen zone is depriving itself of tremendous potential of more tourists [and] more benefits by actually insisting on procedures and formalities that belong to the 19th century.”
Rifai then quoted an example in Turkey, where Russian tourism has doubled since the government set up a visa-on-arrival deal in 2009.