Thwarted terror attack puts visa-free travel in the spotlight

24 Aug 2015 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The Schengen area of Europe, which allows people to move around a number of countries with one visa, should be reviewed after last week’s attempted terror attack on a French train, according to Belgium’s Prime Minister.

Charles Michel, who is known for his support of free movement within the EU, is calling for new identity checks to be put in place. The border controls in the 26 countries that make up the Schengen area were removed three decades ago.

Mr Michel wants European transport and interior ministers to meet to look again at the situation. If checks are reintroduced, it would amount to a major shake-up of the idea of free movement, which is a key tenet of the EU.

Mr Michel said: "The Schengen Agreement is important for our economy and our citizens, but we are now faced with new threats in Europe and so we'll maybe have to move towards new rules in identity and baggage checks.”

The Schengen area marked its 30th anniversary in June. At the time, the European Commission called the zone one of Europe’s greatest achievements and said it was irreversible.

The UK is not a member of the zone and carries out its own passport and luggage checks on people arriving in Britain via the Eurostar rail service.

Following the thwarted terror attack on a train travelling from Amsterdam to Brussels and on to Paris, the UK’s former independent reviewer of terror laws said the incident had been a “warning to us all”.

Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, added: “There is barely any security on high-speed rail on the continent. Travellers are entitled to expect them to be policed, at least to the standard of domestic services in Britain where British Transport Police are very focused on counter-terrorism.”