France is to call for an effective suspension of the Schengen Agreement on open borders across Europe this week, as it demands other European nations begin border identity checks inside Europe’s free movement zone, diplomatic sources have confirmed to The Telegraph.
The radical step follows the Friday-night massacre in Paris and will lead French proposals at an emergency meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels on Friday.
“The French are going to push hard for everyone else to institute border controls, particularly Belgium, but across the wider euro area. To all intents and purposes it will be a temporary suspension of Schengen,” the source said.
Claude Moraes, the Labour MEP and chairman of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, said that the French demands would test Schengen “to the limits” even if remaining technically within the terms of the agreement.
“The code allows you flexibility. Hollande will push Schengen flexiblity to a point it hasn’t gone to before,” he told The Telegraph.
“Closures during football tournaments or the G7 were dramatic but nothing compared to what he wants–multiple border closures for security reasons. Closures that can happen quickly for intelligence alerts. The code would allow for it, but it is unprecedented.
“He will call for Schengen to remain but for it to survive it has to have this unprecedented flexibility for the new terrorist reality.”
At the same time Francois Hollande, France’s president, is to announce that he will extend draconian emergency powers for a further three months at a landmark speech in Paris this afternoon.
The speech at Versailles in which Mr Hollande will invoke rarely-used powers to address both houses of the French parliament is being billed by diplomats as a “highly significant” moment for Europe as it digests the security implications of the Paris atrocities.
Chief among the French demands is a radical internal tightening of the Schengen Agreement which was already under pressure from the migrant crisis.
This year several countries, including Germany, Austria, Sweden and Hungary have introduced temporary border controls, raising questions about the sustainability of Schengen even before the latest Paris massacre.
Other French proposals include more checking of identities, both for travellers entering the EU from outside Europe but also–crucially–on travellers moving within Europe.
Sources said it was too early to say whether the new measures proposed by France would be temporary or indefinite, but expected they would last for a considerable period of time.
The news that the terror cell that conducted the attacks was based in Belgium has raised clear concerns about secondary movement of terrorists inside the EU free-movement zone which France says must now be urgently addressed.
France also wants the immediate adoption of the controversial Passenger Name Records (PNR) system for planes, trains and ships which has long been blocked by the data protection lobby which objects to the bulk collection of so much information as contrary to the Lisbon Treaty.
The demand for the use of PNR includes not only for external entries, but also for intra-EU travel, a move that would require new European legislation in order to force passenger carriers to turn over data.
Sources said legislation to enable PNR for intra-EU travel could be put through rapidly if there was sufficient political backing.
France also wants greater use of the Schengen Information System (SIS) which cross references border identity checks with a vast database of known criminals, stolen vehicles and passports and other security data.
Bernard Cazeneuve, the French interior minister, prefigured the French demands in remarks on Sunday in which he said that “systematic and coordinated checks on borders inside the European Union” were now essential for the fight against terrorism.
“Because terrorists cross Europe’s external borders and internal borders, we want the proposals that are made and the measures taken by France as those put in place by other European countries . . . to be enacted quickly,” he added.