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Migration and Home Affairs

Schengen evaluation and monitoring

The Schengen evaluation and monitoring mechanism monitors the implementation of the Schengen acquis – common set of Schengen rules that apply to all Member States. The purpose of the mechanism is to ensure an effective, consistent, timely and transparent application of Schengen rules by Schengen Member States, while at the same time maintaining a high level of mutual trust between Member States.

Report on the functioning of the Schengen Evaluation and Monitoring Mechanism

In November 2020, the Commission adopted a report on the functioning of the Schengen Evaluation and Monitoring Mechanism. It was published as part of the first Multiannual Evaluation Programme covering the period 2015-2019. The report confirmed the benefits of the mechanism pointing out its tangible improvements. Overall, Member States are implementing the Schengen acquis adequately and serious deficiencies were duly addressed. The report confirms that the mechanism provides a solid framework for evaluating and monitoring the implementation of the Schengen acquis.

Identified shortcomings of the Mechanism

The report also identified shortcomings in the functioning of the Mechanism preventing it from working as effectively as possible and undermining its full potential:

  1. the excessive length of the evaluation process (10-12 months) and the time for Member States to implement recommendations (2 years)
  2. insufficient capacity of the Member States to contribute an adequate number of experts for the evaluations
  3. need of increased efficiency of unannounced visits and of the other evaluation and monitoring tools
  4. slow follow-up and implementation of the action plans by Member States and lack of a comprehensive and consistent approach to monitoring the implementation
  5. apart from the evaluation of the right to protection of personal data, the assessment of the respect for fundamental rights in the implementation of the Schengen acquis is not sufficiently integrated in the Mechanism

The report indicated that some of these shortcomings could be addressed at an operational level, but others would require legislative changes.

The Commission prepared a comprehensive impact assessment and carried out targeted consultations with stakeholders, including European Parliament, Member States, and relevant civil society organisations. Their views confirmed the shortcomings identified in the 5-year review and are largely taken into account in the new Schengen strategy proposal.

Proposal to reform the Schengen evaluation and monitoring mechanism

In June 2021, the Commission presented a Strategy towards a fully functioning and resilient Schengen area. A central element of this strategy is the legislative proposal to reform the Schengen evaluation and monitoring mechanism. The reform aims to make the Schengen area more flexible in order to respond to new challenges, and more adaptable to recent and future developments of the Schengen acquis. The proposed changes are grouped into the following objectives:

1. Increase the strategic focus of the Mechanism and ensure a more proportionate and strategic use of different evaluation and monitoring tools

  • Adapting the scope of evaluations to new realities to ensure a flexible framework for monitoring the implementation of the Schengen acquis.
  • Moving towards fully risk-based evaluations and providing for flexible programming.
  • Ensuring no gaps when evaluating the implementation of the Schengen acquis in a Member State. This will be done by making possible for the Mechanism to evaluate the activities of EU agencies, bodies and offices and of private parties when acting on behalf of a Member States to support it in the implementation of the Schengen acquis.
  • Extending the evaluation cycle from five to seven years allowing for Member States to be evaluated at least twice during the seven-year cycle. This would allow for a more balanced, flexible and strategic use of all available evaluation and monitoring tools, ensuring a closer and more targeted monitoring of Member States.
  • Strengthening the forms and methods of evaluation and monitoring activities. Along with the programmed periodic visits, which remain the primary method of evaluations, the proportion of unannounced visits will be increased, evaluations and monitoring activities by remote means (e.g. via videoconference) will become possible and the role of “thematic evaluations” will become more prominent.
  • Making unannouncedevaluations without prior notification will become a general rule.
  • The yearly reports on the results of the evaluations and the remedial actions taken by Member States will feed into the yearly “State of Schengen Report” to allow for political discussions to comprehensively cover all elements of the Schengen acquis.

2. Shorten and simplify the procedures to make the process more efficient and increase Council influence

  • The Commission will adopt reports and recommendations in one single document shortening the length of the process from 10-12 months to four months, and in cases of serious deficiencies to two and a half months.
  • Ensuring better links between the findings and the recommendations of the evaluation.
  • The Council will focus on cases which are considered to have greater importance, and it will steer political discussion on matters of general interest for the functioning of the Schengen area.
  • The Council will have a stronger role in the monitoring of more important cases, and provide an escalation mechanism in the case of lack of progress.
  • Regarding serious deficiencies, the proposal strengthens and accelerates the process putting in place a fast-track and better streamlined procedure to ensure that the deficiencies identified are addressed promptly.
  • Reinforcing the Commission’s obligations to report to the Council and the European Parliament on the progress made in the implementation of recommendations by each Member State.

3. Strengthening the evaluation of the respect for fundamental rights under the Schengen acquis

  • Stronger evaluation of the respect of human rights address the long-standing calls of the European Parliament, and other stakeholders, and will be achieved by an increased submission of risk analyses by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. The risk analysis will include stronger examination of fundamental rights in the provisions on training. A specific provision will also be added in the Regulation regarding the use of the evidence supplied by third parties, including national monitoring mechanisms.
  • There will be a possibility to carry out unannounced evaluations without prior notice, if there are indications of serious fundamental rights violations.

4. Optimising the participation of Member State experts with Union bodies, offices and agencies, and synergies with other evaluation and monitoring mechanisms

  • Creating a pool of experts who will be available for carrying out evaluations.
  • Member States will appoint at least one expert per policy field identified in the multiannual evaluation programme. The Commission will take due account of the capacity of the national administrations and the need to ensure geographical balance.
  • Strengthening cooperation and synergies with Frontex, eu-LISA, Europol, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights and the European Data Protection Supervisor.

Schengen evaluation in practice

Each Member State will be evaluated at least twice during the 7-year evaluation cycle as part of the annual and multiannual evaluation programmes.

Commission report and recommendation

An evaluation is followed by a Commission report which includes recommendations for remedial action that the evaluated country should undertake, and the priorities for implementing them with the possibility of setting a deadline for the implementation.

Member State action plan

Within two months of the adoption of the report, the Member State concerned is required to submit an action plan setting out how it intends to remedy the identified weaknesses.

The Commission reviews the implementation of the plan on a regular basis, and may require that the Member State concerned provides a revision. In addition, the Commission, Frontex or other EU bodies, agencies or offices can assist Member States in fulfilling the recommendations via practical and financial measures. EU funds in the field of Home Affairs specifically provide for the possibility for the Member States to implement the Schengen Evaluation Working Group (SCHE-VAL) recommendations with their support.

Remedy of serious deficiencies

In case a serious deficiency is identified, the evaluated Member State has to start immediately implementing actions to remedy the deficiency even before the evaluation report is adopted, and will have to inform immediately the Commission and Member States of the measures taken.

The report and Council recommendations have to be adopted within two and a half months from the end of the evaluation. A revisit to verify the implementation of remedial actions will take place no later than one year following the evaluation. For closer political scrutiny, the Commission will immediately inform the Council and the European Parliament of the existence of a serious deficiency.

In exceptional circumstances, where persistent serious deficiencies in a Member States’ control of its external borders have been identified and, when it is clear that measures taken by the evaluated member state are not sufficient to ensure the adequate remedy of these deficiencies, border controls may be reintroduced temporarily. However, this is a step of last resort and would be used only if all other measures, such as operational support from Frontex, were ineffective in mitigating a serious threat.

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