Belgium bids to clear Schengen hurdle

Series Title
Series Details 12/10/95, Volume 1, Number 04
Publication Date 12/10/1995
Content Type

Date: 12/10/1995

By Rory Watson

THE Belgian government is about to discover later this month the degree of support emerging for its campaign to consolidate the Schengen Convention by the end of the year.

As current president of the frontier-free agreement, Belgium is aiming to rebut critics by ironing out almost a dozen technical problems and advancing Schengen northwards towards Scandinavia.

The 24 October meeting of Schengen ministers will also review the impact of rigorous French identity checks introduced in the wake of current bomb attacks.

A series of behind-the-scenes meetings is working through a Belgian 11-point action plan to tackle specific failings and anomalies, largely raised by France, such as the question of delivering visas and the problems of frontier regions.

Those involved in the talks are hopeful the action plan will be agreed at this year's final meeting on 20 December. But if France is to participate fully in the convention from the start of next year, it will require more than some technical breakthroughs.

One senior European diplomat said: “There are two factors. On the one hand we will have to see if there is a fall-off in terrorist activity so police surveillance at frontiers does not need to be so strong. Then we will have to see how the technical work is going. Progress is being made on the second,” he continued, “but we just can't forecast the first. The French will want to wait until the last moment to

see how they are doing on terrorism.”

This month's meeting will examine efforts to introduce greater compatibility between different national legislation on drugs, an issue which has exposed raw nerves between the Dutch and French.

It is also expected to mark a new stage in Schengen's expansion. Sweden, Finland and Denmark are confident that consideration of their membership bids will not be affected by uncertainty over full French participation in Schengen.

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