FECL 41 (February 1996):

WORKING PROGRAMME OF THE DUTCH PRESIDENCY

The entry into force of the Schengen Implementing Agreement (SIA) in Greece, Italy and Austria, improved controls and surveillance at external borders, bilateral police cooperation in border areas and continued discussion regarding a possible jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice: these are some of the priorities named in a working programme of the Dutch Schengen Presidency for the first six months of 1996.

The Document stresses the need for the Schengen Group to both deepen existing cooperation and expand it. A rapid entry into force of the SIA in Greece, Italy and Austria, and the maintenance of "optimal relations" with the European Union are of great importance in achieving this goal. Formal membership negotiations with the five Nordic states will begin in May.

Contacts with international institutions "such as the European Parliament and the United Nations High Commissionary for Refugees" will be "continued on the same basis as before".

 

Movement of persons - external borders

The effectiveness of controls and surveillance at external border shall be assessed and further improved. A special "Ad hoc working group" has been charged with this task.

Attention will also be given to the practical functioning of the SIA's regulations regarding visa and asylum, and to existing problems concerning the readmission of third country foreigners among Schengen member states.

Common, uniform visa fees are to be introduced in 1996. With this in view, a satisfactory regulation for transit and airport-transit visa must be agreed. For the time being, the Schengen states' policy regarding transit visa is far from harmonised. Nationals of seven countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Zaire) need an airport-transit visa in all Schengen states. But for nationals of an additional 21 countries, including Albania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Algeria, such a transit visa is required by one or several member states only. There are strong variations among Schengen states regarding transit visa requirements. With 12 countries on its national list, Portugal is most restrictive, while Austria, with two countries, is most liberal.

At the Oostende meeting of the Schengen Executive Committee on 20 December 1995, several member states called for a more restrictive delivery by individual member states of visa with territorial restrictions. In view of this, the Dutch Presidency will reassess existing procedures.

The "Common Instructions for Consulates" shall be further detailed. New regulations shall provide for the integration of the existing network of inter-consular consultation into the SIRENE system. According to the "Common Instructions", foreign representations of the Schengen member states shall exchange information and cooperate on the spot in examining visa applications (see FECL No.32: "Implementing and upgrading the SIS").

 

Asylum policies

Cooperation between the member states in determining the member state responsible for examining an asylum application must be improved and national jurisdiction pertaining to the application of asylum regulations in the SIA must be closely followed.

 

Police and security

The Dutch working programme calls for the elaboration of "common proceedings" in the field of public order and national security, as an alternative to individual measures of single member states. The point comes as a reaction to the French use of Article 2.2 of the SIA, which many member states consider abusive. The provision allows individual member states to re-introduce internal border controls for a limited period of time on public order and national security grounds. On 20 December, the Schengen Executive Committee, pressed by Germany, established a procedure implying that any member state must submit its decision to resort to Article 2.2 to the other member states, before putting it into force. The procedure does, however, not provide a right for member states to veto the application of Article 2.2 by an individual member state. For their part, the French said in Oostende, that improved police cooperation in border areas would contribute to a more sparing use of Article 2.2. On 7 December 1995, France and Germany signed a bilateral agreement providing for the setting up of joint police stations in German-French border areas. In Oostende, the Schengen Executive Committee hailed the agreement's "pilot function" for bilateral police cooperation within the Schengen framework and recommended that all member states conclude identical agreements with their respective neighbour states.

A particular measure named by the Dutch presidency is the organisation of police cooperation to cover "large-scale controls and demonstrations" in border areas.

 

A role for the European Court of Justice?

The Dutch are determined to continue the discussion on some form of jurisdiction of the European Court for the SIA. For the time being, the Executive Committee (made of the ministers of the member states) is alone in charge of settling disputes concerning the interpretation of the convention.

 

Sources: Working Programme of the Dutch Presidency for the first half-year of 1996, Groupe Central, Brussels, December 1995, SCH/C(96)1; Schlussfolgerungen der Sitzung in Oostende am 20.12.1995, Executive Committee, Brussels 21.12.95, SCH/Com-ex(95)PV4; Report of State Secretary Kurt Schelter to the German Bundestag, Bonn, 22.12.95.