Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis called on her EU counterparts on Tuesday to expedite and intensify the accession evaluation process for Schengen candidate countries, such as Cyprus, while intensifying police cooperation and security management across the entire block.
Yiolitis made the statement in the morning at the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Luxembourg.
“One among many other important items on the agenda is how to build a more resilient, but at the same time, more inclusive Schengen area,” the minister said.
“In doing so, we must recall that not all member states are Schengen states, and at the same time the EU Schengen states may reintroduce internal border controls in response to serious public policy or security threats” she added.
The minister said the aim should not be to create a tight fortress of well protected core member states, intrinsically linking Schengen to migration flows and reintroducing border control in order to curb migration goes against the Schengen aquis.
“And this is most important for front line first arrival countries, like Cyprus, with very disproportionate burden of incoming migration flows” she said.
Yiolitis said member states must remember that internal border controls even when justified must be temporary, they must be proportionate and they must be a measure of last resort. Cyprus was a frontline state and also a Schengen candidate.
“We need to put forward a mechanism that genuinely fosters cooperation, and that can respond effectively to humanitarian crises” she added.
“The EU is a family of member states and each member state needs to remember that it is only as safe, as protected, as free as its fellow states.”
EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said earlier this month that Cyprus was not yet ready to enter Schengen. The island applied in 2019 and is being evaluated to see if it fits the technological and other criteria. Part of the problem is the unique situation due to the island’s division, the EU has said.