EU hasn’t moved on Schengen changes: PM

European leaders have yet to decide whether to restore border controls within the Schengen zone, Spain's prime minister said Monday, after Madrid made a push for the visa-free treaty to be modified in the wake of France's terror attacks.

EU hasn't moved on Schengen changes: PM
Madrid wants the 1995 Schengen treaty modified to check the movements of Islamist militants returning to Europe after fighting in the Middle East. File photo: AFP

"No decision has been taken regarding the question of whether or not to change the Schengen treaty," Mariano Rajoy said during an interview with Cadena Ser radio.

"If the question is posed it will be debated but I think that everything that helps the fight against terrorism must be done, as long as it does not harm other things. I think that everything is perfectly compatible," he added.

Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz said in an interview published on Sunday that Madrid wants the 1995 treaty modified to check the movements of Islamist militants returning to Europe after fighting in the Middle East.

"Those people over whom there is a well founded suspicion or risk that they may be terrorists or who are susceptible of being terrorists, should not use this freedom of movement to the detriment of our freedom and security," the minister told daily newspaper El País.

His comments were made just before EU and US security ministers met at France's interior ministry on Sunday to work out a joint response to the threat of jihadist attacks following days of carnage in Paris by three gunmen claiming to act on behalf of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.

The Schengen agreement has been signed by 26 countries, 22 of them EU members. It imposes border controls on individuals entering and leaving the zone, but none on travels within the bloc. The treaty cannot be changed unilaterally.

The agreement nevertheless already allows member countries to temporarily reinstate border controls if deemed necessary for security reasons, such as big sporting events like the Olympic Games or to address temporary threats.

Spain is also pushing for the swift adoption of European legislation requiring airlines to provide data of passengers entering or leaving the EU.

Adoption of the Passenger Name Record Directive was suspended by the European Parliament late last year because of concerns about data protection.

The wanted partner of one of the gunmen behind the terror attacks in France, Hayat Boumeddiene, crossed into Syria last week after arriving in Turkey on a flight from Madrid, Turkish authorities said on Monday.


Popular Party MPs call on Spain to quit Schengen free movement deal

Members of Spain's conservative party want the country to leave the EU's Schengen Area if they “aren’t respected” by Germany, following their refusal to extradite separatist Catalan leader Puigdemont to Spain on grounds of treason.

Popular Party MPs call on Spain to quit Schengen free movement deal
Photo: Deposit Photos

Two members of Spain’s former ruling party have told socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez he should pull Spain out of the European Union’s free movement agreement.

Their words come just hours after a German court ruled that deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont may be extradited to Spain but only for alleged corruption and not on the more serious charge of rebellion.

Pablo Casado, candidate to the presidency of Spain’s former ruling Popular Party, told journalists that if he were to become Prime Minister he wouldn’t allow for such “humiliations” and suggested the country close its borders “if there aren’t any guarantees that Spain will be respected”.

“With these kinds of decisions separatists feel supported by the international community,” Casado tweeted.

PP spokesperson in the European Parliament Esteban González Pons reiterated the conservative party’s sentiment by saying “this is a very sad day for the process of integration” as it proved that “European arrest warrants don’t work”.

“I demand that Sánchez scrap the enforcement of the Schengen Agreement in Spain, as so many other countries in the EU have done, until it becomes clear whether a European arrest warrant actually serves for anything,” González Pons is seen saying on a video posted on the party’s twitter page.

Deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont was detained in Germany in late March on a European arrest warrant from Spain for his role in Catalonia's failed independence bid last October.

Photo: AFP

But on Thursday the superior regional court of the German Schleswig-Holstein state ruled that “extradition on the accusation of misappropriation of public funds is permissible; extradition on the accusation of rebellion is not permissible.

Both the PP and the ruling socialist PSOE party wants Puigdemont to return to Spain so he can face trial for alleged rebellion, which carries a sentence of up to 30 years.

A court in Schleswig-Holstein had released Puigdemont on bail on April 6 after finding that he could not be extradited for rebellion – which is not punishable under German law.

The court argued that the closest legal equivalent, high treason, did not apply because Puigdemont’s actions were not accompanied by violence.

Spain is an active member of the Schengen Area, an area comprising 26 European states that have officially abolished passport and all other types of border control at their mutual borders.