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EU Leaders to Warn Passport-Free Travel at Risk Without Checks

  • Draft communique says `indispensable' to regain border control
  • Statement does not include any words on U.K.-EU renegotiation

European Union leaders will warn the 28-nation bloc that its passport-free travel area may disappear unless there are more and better checks at borders with non-EU countries, according to a draft communique dated Dec. 14 obtained by Bloomberg News.

If the Schengen zone is to survive, “it is indispensable to regain control over the external borders,” according to the draft prepared by diplomats ahead of a summit starting Thursday. This should be done by “ensuring systemic security checks,” even for EU citizens, by preventing document fraud and ensuring “the actual return of people not authorized to stay.”

Faced with the biggest influx of refugees in its near 60-year history and the specter of more violence in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, EU leaders are trying to shore up the bloc’s defenses and send back migrants who don’t have a justified claim to asylum.

Ireland and the U.K., for example, have opted out of the agreement that facilitates freedom of movement between 26 European nations while non-EU nations such as Switzerland have joined.

Leaders will say that the Paris shootings and suicide bombings on Nov. 13 make it all the more urgent for nations to share criminal records data for “people connected to terrorism” and ensure that details of foreign fighters are included on EU-wide databases. They will also call for “further engagement with the Internet industry” to support criminal investigations.

The draft communique -- which could be revised before the summit begins -- doesn’t have any language tackling the U.K.’s EU renegotiation that is on the meeting’s agenda. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron is seeking better terms for staying in the bloc ahead of a referendum on membership by the end of 2017.

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