The regional MP of North Rhine-Westphalia (PES/Germany) and 1st PES Group Vice-President responded to the intervention of Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, who joined CoR members gathering at their plenary session to discuss key challenges on the EU agenda such as the situation of refugees and the proposed referendum on United Kingdom membership.
Markus Töns expressed the Group's concerns about the fact that the Schengen Agreement had been seriously questioned in recent months. "We must fight together to safeguard this fundamental component of European integration because giving up free circulation between our countries would amount to a political earthquake", he warned.
He was joined in his call by the CoR's 1st Vice President Karl-Heinz Lambertz, who stressed: "Back home in my border region, we recently celebrated 25 years of trans-border cooperation under the Interreg program. The Schengen agreement on the abolition of internal borders has brought enomous benefit to communities and economies in many corners of the European Union. We must defend it at any cost".
The PES Group succeeded in anchoring its key requests in a CoR resolution which it had initiated and which was then tabled jointly by all political groups on the Threats to the EU's Schengen Border-free Area., The resolution was adopted by a large majority following a lively debate, with the European Conservatives and Reformists' (ECR) group voting against it because of a reference to the project of an "ever closer Union among the peoples of Europe' .
The resolution stresses that the freedom of movement and the abolition of internal borders are key achievements of the European integration and they "not only have an important economic, social and territorial impact, but also have significant symbolic value for the EU and its citizens".
The text also underlines the need for solidarity and cooperation between all levels of governance in ensuring the management of the EU's external and internal borders and stresses that border controls must respect all legal and humanitarian obligations of the EU and its Member States as well as fundamental rights including the rights to human dignity and the right to asylum. The CoR with this resolution calls on the Member States to return to a constructive attitude in the search for a common solution, instead of blaming individual members or institutions of the Schengen area.