Countries were forced to install temporary migration controls
The European Commission granted the extension to Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway – which are all members of the visa-free and borderless zone.
Under the arrangement European citizens can travel without a visa through the designated zone, which covers most of the Brussels bloc.
But the Schengen agreement was almost destroyed last year as countries began blocking their borders to stop illegal immigration.
Several countries were forced to install temporary migration controls at their borders after the migrant crisis hit to prevent an influx of thousands of undocumented refugees from entering towns and cities undetected.
Hungary even built a new wall to keep migrants out
Under the Schengen agreement, citizens can travel without a passport
Now the passport-free zone faces a fresh dilema after the European Union commission confirmed an extension of border controls – despite hopes Schengen could be saved.
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: "Significant progress has been made to lift internal border controls, but we need to solidify it further.
“This is why we recommend allowing the Member States concerned to maintain temporary border controls for a further three months."
The commission stressed they had made moved to stabilise the situation
The commission stressed they had made moved to stabilise the situation, but the conditions needed to return to normal border procedures have not yet been met.
A report into the issue highlighted the significant numbers of migrants still in Greece – adding that “the situation remains fragile on the Western Balkans route” that connects Turkey to Europe.
The issue of new security challenges, as demonstrated by the recent terrorist attacks in a number of European countries, have also been taken into account into the recommendations.
BORDER-FREE Schengen: Countries you can visit WITHOUT a passport
Mon, January 23, 2017
If you are an EU national, you do not need to show your national ID card or passport when you are travelling from one border-free Schengen EU country to another. The Schengen Area is an area comprising 26 European states that have officially abolished passport and any other type of border control at their mutual borders.
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Significant progress has been made to lift internal border controls, but we need to solidify it further.
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans
But a document published in March 2016 earmarked last December as “the target date for bringing to an end the exceptional safeguard measures taken” – meaning the target was not met.
And suggestions the move was partly influenced by German elections, which are due to be held in September were rejected by Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European commissioner for migration.
Border controls aimed to stop an undocumented flow of migrants
He said: “Our decision is based on facts.”
The Commission said that the migration crisis calming down, and the implementation of a series of measures to better manage the EU’s external borders — such as the launch of the European Border and Coast Guard last fall.
But it “considers that the conditions of the ‘Back to Schengen’ roadmap … have not yet been entirely fulfilled”.