EU to extend Schengen border controls for three months: Commission

BRUSSELS (AFP) - The EU should prolong border controls in the passport-free Schengen area for another three months as the bloc is still working on steps to deal with the migrant crisis, the European Commission said Wednesday (Jan 25).

Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and non-EU Norway first introduced the checks in 2015 as a record wave of refugees and migrants from Syria, the Middle East and Africa streamed across Europe.

The current measures were imposed in November and are due to lapse in mid-February.

"Significant progress has been made to lift internal border controls, but we need to solidify it further," European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans said in a statement.

"This is why we recommend allowing member states concerned to maintain temporary border controls for a further three months." Brussels had earlier said it wanted to restore full functioning with no border controls across the Schengen area - which includes 22 EU countries as well as Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein - by the end of 2016.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, added that "conditions... allowing for a return to a normally functioning Schengen area have not yet been entirely fulfilled".

The EU's 28 member states must formally approve the extension.

Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos insisted that the Schengen area - one of the EU's proudest achievement and a cornerstone of its principle of freedom of movement - would get back to normal.

"These controls cannot go on for ever and they will not go on for ever," Avramopoulos told reporters in Brussels, adding that the extension was a "last resort".