The European branch of Airports Council International (ACI-Europe), urges the European Commission to protect free movement of European citizens guaranteed under the Schengen system.
The principles of the Schengen system have been challenged by member states due to recent unprecedented levels of migration and terrorist attacks.
“For Europe’s airports, the removal of internal air border controls between the 26 Schengen States has played an essential role in the availability of efficient and affordable air services for European citizens,” the airport association states.
“It has allowed intra-European air transport to become a commodity, as evidenced by the continued growth of air traffic. While just over 600 million passengers used Europe’s airports in 1990, an estimated 1,95 billion did so last year—with over 60% (1,2 billion) of them using one of the 443 airports located within the Schengen area.”
ACI EUROPE called on the European commission to ensure “the integrity and continuity of Schengen”.
“The European airport trade body supports the swift implementation of the Commission’s agenda to reinforce Schengen’s external borders to safeguard its internal area of free movement. ACI EUROPE also highlights the need for Schengen States to commit adequate resources for such task at their airports,” ACI-Europe states.
Expressing concerns of ACI-Europe member airports over the impact of restrictions on the Schengen system of free movement, Olivier Jankovic, Director General, ACI EUROPE said:
“Schengen is part of the fundamental fabric of European air travel. For more than 25 years, the distinction between Schengen and non-Schengen traffic flows has conditioned and shaped the development of terminal facilities at airports. A reinstatement of air border controls between Schengen States is not on the cards — and it should never be as the impact would be quite devastating.
“This would require a difficult restructuring of airport facilities, involving investments easily reaching hundreds of millions of euros for each of the largest Schengen airports. The immediate impact would be unprecedented levels of congestion and flight disruptions, with potential spillover effects across the entire European airport network.
“Hubs would no longer be able to guarantee their current minimum connecting times between flights — and the result would be longer travel times, reduced choice for consumers and degraded connectivity for Europe. The impact would not just be felt on aviation, but also on tourism and the wider economy.”
To protect Schengen policy while ensuring safety and security of European citizens, ACI-Europe’s Jankovec called for allocation of more border and police resources.
“The Council of Ministers last week endorsed the Commission’s Border Package which provides for systematic document and security check at airports of all persons—including citizens of Schengen States—against relevant databases, whenever they exit or enter the Schengen common area.
“This is an essential step to reinforcing Schengen’s external borders and it should be implemented as soon as possible,” Jankovec said.
“It requires the deployment of additional police and border control staff at airports—resources over which airports have no control, but with whom we work in constant partnership.
“With current border control staffing levels under stress at many airports, we are deeply concerned about whether more resources can be made available. Maintaining passenger service levels is already a challenge, and if we do not get adequate staffing, the situation will get worse. We hope Governments will fulfil their State responsibilities.”
Featured Image: Barrier fence at the rail station of Copenhagen Airport prevents individuals from crossing the railroad tracks to circumvent border controls, in keeping with Sweden’s policy requiring all visitors to present photo identification before entering the country. Source: Sund og Bælt