No surprise there: the majority of member states, if not all, oppose the idea of handing over more decision making powers to the European Commission in terms of applying the mechanism for the temporary reintroduction of internal border control in the case of an exceptional crisis. This provision is recommended in the legislative proposal revising the Schengen Borders Code Regulation, which was discussed by the home affairs ministers, who met at the 13 December 2011 Council. Broadly speaking, the debate related to the reform of the governance of the Schengen area. Ministers, who intend to keep their prerogatives, welcomed with interest the proposals aiming to reinforce the political governance of the area at Council level - as proposed by France, Germany, Spain and Italy. One element that could thus complete the three key points of the Schengen reform is good border management, an efficient evaluation mechanism and measures re-establishing internal border control. "Everyone agrees on the fact that it is necessary to reinforce evaluation," but "there is still some disagreement over the Commission's role in planned (foreseeable) suspension of internal borders or in cases of emergencies".

The proposal for the revision of the Schengen Borders Code provides that the decision of reverting to border control shall be submitted to the Commission, which will propose and adopt - or not - an implementing act (comitology procedure) based on opinions voiced by member states. Indeed, the decision needs to be justified by real threats to public order or to internal security.

In the view of the member states, this would be handing over competency to the Commission, which is unacceptable as long as the field - public order - is at the heart of national sovereignty. "The Commission's ambition is not to challenge member states' right to be the masters of their borders" but "we must ensure that there are control mechanisms to avoid abuses," said the Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom. Member states could, however, accept more supervision as long as decision making remains in the hands of the Council. The possibility has been broached that the Commission would propose a decision for adoption by the Council. The terms and the scenarios for the application of this option (see box) have not been decided (qualified majority, unanimity, role of EP). Opinions differ on the matter and all the options are still on the table, said a well-informed European...

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