The European Commission has announced that the first Schengen Forum took place on 30 November 2020, with the goal of working “towards a stronger and more resilient Schengen Area,” according to an announcement published by the commission.
The Schengen forum, which was the first in history, gathered Members of the European Parliament and Home Affairs Ministers with the goals of enabling political dialogue and cooperation, all to rebuild trust among Member States.
According to the announcement, the Forum focused on several key subjects in the EU right now:
Improving the mechanism to evaluate the implementation of Schengen rules.
Options for operational improvements and legislative changes were discussed for better monitoring, better identification of deficiencies, and more effective follow-up to deficiencies.
Finding a way forward on the revision of the Schengen Border Code.
The Forum discussed ways to get past the current internal border controls, and how they can ensure in the future that any possible reintroduction of internal border controls can be made proportionate and used as a last resort for limited amounts of time.
Better managing at the EU’s external borders.
“Participants stressed the need” for quickly implementing the Entry/Exit System (EES) and the European Traveler Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), which complement existing external border control systems and will benefit the existing controls if they are used in their full capacity.
Enhancing police cooperation and information exchange.
The Forum discussed “common and coordinated European action” for increased police cooperation, better information exchange, and the better use of new technologies.
The first Schengen Forum is a somewhat historic event for the Schengen Area, as it marks the day that the Schengen Area could be moving towards a recovery and regaining much of the trust and cooperation that was lost during the COVID-19 crisis.
“The coronavirus pandemic has shown how much we need Schengen. Moving freely within the EU is a daily necessity for millions of Europeans for work or school for instance. It’s also crucial for companies transporting goods around Europe. Schengen can be our lifeline when it comes to Europe’s economic recovery post-coronavirus. That is why our discussions today on building a more resilient Schengen are so important,” said Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.
The Forum will meet regularly, presumably every quarter, to discuss the furthering of the Schengen Area in Europe and the world. The next meeting for the Forum will be held in Spring 2021 and will feed into the new Schengen Strategy that the Commission intends to unveil in mid-2021.
Many have interpreted the months-long internal border closures in the Schengen Area to be indicative of the decline of the borderless zone, however, the aim of the Forum is to rebuild the trust and ensure that the Schengen Area does not go into a state of decline.
“Today’s discussions showed a strong collective commitment to preserve and strengthen Schengen. For the last 35 years, we have built an entire Schengen architecture to better protect the area without controls at internal borders. And we must continue to build on and improve that architecture going forward,” said Vice President for Promoting Our Way of Life Margaritis Schinas.
It is still unclear how the new Forum will impact actual policy within the Schengen Area, however, it likely will have a very positive impact for Member States and citizens alike.