Sweden's border controls, introduced to stem the flow of refugees and migrants in September 2015, come up for renewal next month. Under the Schengen agreement border controls between most EU countries should only be used in exceptional circumstances.
In the original wording of a declaration from the EU summit in Brussels, Sweden and four other countries were to have bound themselves to a gradual removal of the border controls. However, Sweden, Germany, Denmark and Austria, together with non-EU Norway, got the passage reworded to allow them to adjust the border controls according to circumstances.
“This gives the opening that we believe the European Commission needs to extend border controls”, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven told journalists in Brussels. The European Commission will consider whether the five countries' requests to maintain controls meet the new requirements.
Löfven said Sweden had not made a final decision on whether it wanted to keep the controls, saying the government was awaiting detailed responses from the agencies affected and would discuss plans with the other four countries. Gaining permission from the European Commission would give it more freedom of action, he said.
The five countries' submission to the Commission expresses concern about controls at the EU's external border in Greece, points out that thousands of migrants are stranded in the Western Balkans and notes that EU countries are not implementing the Dublin Agreement, which states that refugees should be processed by the first EU country in which they arrive.
They also claim that terror attacks in France, Belgium and Germany over the summer show that terror groups will take advantage of failings in border controls.
Border controls between Sweden and Denmark were introduced in September 2015 after a period during which record numbers of refugees – up to 6,000 a week – were entering Sweden.
The border controls have proven unpopular in Malmö and Copenhagen – many cross-border commuters say they have had to give up their jobs as the controls made it impossible for them to get to work.