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August 1995, Volume 2, Number 8

EU Border Controls

The Schengen agreement, designed to abolish border controls between the seven signatories, went into effect on March 26, 1995, and passport controls were scheduled to be phased out on July 1, 1995. Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain ended passport controls on their common borders on July 1 as scheduled. France used a safety clause in the Schengen agreement to maintain its border controls, citing fears of illegal immigration after the EU denied a request for a six-month extension.

France cited fears of illegal immigration from some of its Schengen partners as the reason why it would maintain passport controls for another six months. France noted that, in the three months since Schengen went into effect on March 26, 1995, four of the seven member nations had failed to report to Schengen computers any stolen identity documents, and only one had reported any stolen cars. France also complained that drug traffic along its northern borders increased by almost 60 percent in April-May 1995.

The number of foreigners refused entry to France fell by two-thirds in April-May 1995, which the National Front said demonstrates France's failure to control its own borders.

Most commentaries decried the French refusal to join in border-free Europe, since France is one of the most ardent supporters of European integration. Many asserted that France delayed Schengen implementation for fear of further strengthening the National Front, which has asserted that under Schengen, illegal immigration to France will increase.

The French decision bolsters the position of the UK, which argues that border-free Europe would increase illegal immigration and criminal activities.

The EU is scheduled to release a plan in July 1995 to remove passport controls between all member nations, which would be equivalent to extending Schengen to all EU member nations.

The election of several National Front mayors in local French elections in June obscured the fact that only two of France's 225 cities of 30,000 or more have National Front mayors. Indeed, there are so many local positions in France--over 500,000--that about one percent of the French population holds some local office.

"Schengen: France Keeps its Guard Up," Transport Europe, July 20, 1995. Emma Tucker, "EU heads for the final frontier: A return to the document-free days of the past," Financial Times, July 8, 1995. Janet McEvoy, "Commission Proposes Dropping internal EU Border Controls, Reuters, July 12, 1995. Suzanne Lowry, "France left isolated as border pact falls apart," The Daily Telegraph, July 1, 1995; Emma Tucker, " French deal blow to EU plans for border-free zone," Financial Times, June 30, 1995. Susan Bell, "French border ploy," The Times, June 30, 1995.