12 MAY 2011
By Valentina Pop
EUOBSERVER / BERLIN - Ahead of a special meeting of interior ministers on Thursday (12 May) to discuss ways to stem migration from north African countries, Germany said it is against "everyone doing whatever it wants" when it comes to border checks.
"Under no circumstances will we accept any measure that will limit in any way the freedom of movement achieved under Schengen," German interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told journalists in Berlin on Wednesday.
The minister said the current rules are too vague, allowing countries such as France to interpret "however they want" the term "public safety" and reintroduce border checks. Paris recently started checking its borders to prevent irregular Tunisian migrants arriving in Italy from coming into France.
"Is it a matter of internal security if Tunisians board trains in Italy and come over to France? We have no clear conditions spelled out for when such measures as the re-introduction of border checks can be put in place. So this is about creating legal certainty," he said.
However, Friedrich's support for what the EU commission had also flagged up - the need to spell out when border checks can be re-introduced - did not extend having Brussels involved in the decision-making process.
"The European Commission always wants to have a say in a lot of matters, that is not new. We will see tomorrow (Thursday) during the discussions with the commissioner. But subsidiarity means that Brussels doesn't need to be involved in everything, just there where it's really needed."
Friedrich insisted that the securing of borders remains a national competence, even if the EU should be involved in establishing the rules under which temporary and "very limited" checks can be re-introduced.
Asked if the border debate is not sending a negative message to the Arab world at a time of democratic upheaval, the German minister said that it would have been a "wrong signal" to say: "We have a system of redistribution in place, you are free to come here."
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