EU Court of Auditors criticizes EU for travel restrictions imposed during COVID-19 pandemic



European Union auditors have pointed out that the bloc should have been more careful in its controls during the restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, applied for free movement within the bloc.

EU countries have struggled during the pandemic to maintain the smooth flow of people and goods, struggling to organize and coordinate travel restrictions. Additionally, the European Court of Auditors ECA said the bloc’s internal border controllers did not fully align with Schengen rules which aim to facilitate free movement, reports

Specifically, the EU’s Schengen agreement allows all EU residents to move within the zone without having to undergo border controls between the two. Member states did not follow this rule, as in March 2020 several EU countries closed their borders while trying to protect public health.

As the Schengen Code explains, nationals are allowed to introduce internal border controls if a serious threat to internal security is imposed.

In addition, the ECA highlighted that it had reviewed the 150 internal border control complaints submitted to the European Commission between March 2020 and June 2021, of which 135 were closely related to COVID-19.

Moreover, as the ECA report reveals, there is not enough evidence to prove that the border closure measure was the last option or that it was proportionate and limited in duration.

Considering that the free movement of people is one of the EU’s four fundamental freedoms and has been at the heart of the European project since its inception, the Commission should have carefully checked that the restrictions introduced in the time of COVID were all relevant and justified. We hope that the conclusions of our audit will feed into the ongoing debate on the revision of the Schengen system,” Baudilio Tomé Muguruza, the ECA member responsible for the audit, said.

The auditors also pointed out that the Commission had not launched infringement procedures regarding the long-lasting border controls that had been introduced before the pandemic.

Another issue, as highlighted by the ECA, includes the reopening of Europe, an initiative to inform about the internal borders of specific countries within the bloc. Even a year later, information on nine Member States such as Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Bulgaria, Romania, France, Slovenia, Sweden and Finland has not been updated .

The Schengen area includes Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain. , and Sweden.

Norway, Ireland and Switzerland are also part of the Schengen area, although they are considered non-EU countries.

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