Swiss to have a seat on proposed EU migration council

Swiss Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter with her French counterpart Gérald Darmanin on Thursday. Keystone / Stephanie Lecocq

Switzerland is set to participate in a new “Schengen Council” proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron, whose goal is to better coordinate migration policy in Europe.

This content was published on February 4, 2022 - 10:18

Macron presented the idea at a meeting of European Union (EU) interior ministers in Lille on Wednesday and Thursday, where Swiss Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter was also present.

The body – which could meet for the first time in March – would act as a platform for Schengen members to quickly react to crises such as that on the EU border with Belarus, where thousands of migrants tried to cross over to Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania late last year.

“This Council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” said Macron.

Switzerland, as a non-member of the EU but as a member of the Schengen travel area, would “naturally be part [of the council]”, Karin Keller-Sutter said. Earlier this week she received a “positive response” from Macron regarding the Swiss role.

Some cooperation

Swiss relations with Brussels have been difficult after the dropping of a draft framework deal last year, and various sectors – notably research – have seen cooperation fall away.

Keller-Sutter said however that “if there is one area where cooperation is necessary, it is security and migration”. The protection of Schengen’s external borders is a central concern for both the EU and Switzerland, she said, echoing Macron’s point that effective border control is the price to pay for continued free movement within Europe.

Frontex, the body responsible for policing the EU’s external borders, is naturally a key part of this; however, Switzerland’s continued financing of it is up for a nationwide vote in May. For Keller-Sutter, voting “no” to Frontex would mean leaving the Schengen area.

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