(CN) – Noting that Europe is increasingly capable of handling the migrant crisis, the European Commission on Tuesday urged member states that had closed their borders at the height of the crisis to reopen them over the next six months.
Several states raised border controls in 2015, under the “exceptional possibility” clause of the Schengen Borders Code, part of the 1995 Schengen Agreement that broke down borders across much of the European Union. All cited threats to internal order and public policy amid the rush of refugees pouring into the EU from Syria, Africa and other war-torn nations.
While some member states have since lifted the border controls, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway still have come checks in place at their internal borders. The commission said it’s time to lift the checks.
“Thanks to our joint efforts, our external borders are now stronger and more secure,” commission first vice president Frans Timmermans said in a statement. “By working together, it is possible to have both security and freedom of movement. This means that in six months’ time, we will get back to a fully functioning Schengen Area without internal border controls.”
The commission said border controls should be extended by EU lawmakers for six months, but no longer. It noted the rollout of the European Border and Coast Guard this past October, and said “irregular arrivals” in Greece have dropped by 97 percent.
Member states should also make use of “proportionate police checks” at borders to remedy threats to public policy or internal security, the commission said, and urged states to strengthen their cross-border police cooperation.
To date, the following borders remain restricted:
The Austrian-Hungarian and Austrian-Slovenian land borders;
Germany’s land border with Austria;
Danish ports with ferry connections to Germany and the Germany-Denmark land border;
Southern and western Swedish ports and at the Oresund Bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark;
Norwegian ports with ferry connections to Denmark, Sweden and Germany.