The European Commission has said that Belgium has not respected the Schengen agreement by organising police checks at its border with France, the Libre Belgique reported on Saturday. It quoted a letter the European Immigration Commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, sent to the Prime Minister Charles Michel (MR) and his Home Affairs minister Jan Jambon (New Flemish Alliance).
The Belgium government decided to restart border controls on Tuesday, after France announced it would partially dismantle the refugee camp known as ‘the Jungle’ in Calais. Belgian authorities are worried about an influx of illegal immigrants along the coast.
The same day, the government told the European Commission it would be starting the border controls inside the Schengen area again, from the 23rd of February to the 23rd of March.
The European Commission didn’t see this in a good light. “The reintroduction of internal border controls, according to articles 23 and 24 of the Schengen border code, requires notifying the Member State Commission before the planned reintroduction”, writes Dimitris Avramopoulos. “In cases that require immediate action, like that described in your letter, article 25 of the Schengen border code applies. In this case, border controls can only be introduced for a period of 10 days”.
Belgium cannot therefore legally introduce a month of borders controls under the current circumstances.
According to the Foreign Affairs Minister, Didier Reynders, Belgium’s permanent lawyer for Europe has already launched procedures referring to article 25. “The emergency situation is justified, and a 10 day timeline can be renewed. You simply need to prove there are problems at the border, but today you just need to go to the border to realise that there are problems”, Mr Reynders told the RTBF.
Belgian authorities will have to explain themselves to the European Commission on Monday, the Jambon cabinet has said.