The Commission has adopted a new proposal for a Regulation on "local border traffic", i.e. the crossing of borders by nationals of third countries who live in border areas and regularly travel for legitimate reasons to a Member State without constituting a threat to security. The proposal gives the possibility of issuing a special visa to nationals of third countries subject to visa requirements who reside in border areas, for the specific purposes of local border traffic. This visa, whose territorial validity will be limited to the border area of the Member State that issues it, will allow the holder to cross the border of this Member State many times for a stay of up to seven consecutive days and less than three months every half-year. It will be valid for at least one year and can be issued free of charge.
This new proposal takes into account the outcome of the discussions held within the Council on the 2003 proposals, as well as of the opinion of the European Parliament: both Institutions stressed the need to strengthen the "security side" of the proposal, in order to prevent possible abuses of the local border traffic regime by illegal immigrants or criminals. The 2003 proposals will be replaced by the new one. Contrary to the previous proposals, where the European Parliament was only consulted, the new one will have to be adopted jointly by the Council and the European Parliament.
Under the new proposal, Member States will be obliged to introduce penalties sanctioning any abuse of the local border traffic regime. Moreover, the Commission will have to make a report after two years from the entry into force of the Regulation to assess its implementation and, if necessary, to propose the necessary legislative adaptations.
The practical measures to facilitate local border traffic, such as special border-crossing points or corridors reserved for the inhabitants of border areas, are also maintained. However, the possibility of authorising border residents to cross the border outside border crossing points and fixed hours will be strictly limited to cases where there is a requirement of a special nature and will not be applicable to border residents subject to visa requirements.
Given the local nature of small-scale cross-border traffic, the concrete application of this system is delegated to the Member States, which, through bilateral agreements, will be able to negotiate the specific conditions of the small-scale cross-border traffic with their neighbouring countries, in accordance with the general rules drawn up at Community level and taking account of the need to ensure reciprocal treatment for citizens of the Union.
Since the new Member States do not apply yet all the provisions of the Schengen rules and that, consequently, checks at the borders with current Schengen States and between the new Member States themselves will remain in place for a certain period, this Regulation also covers these "temporary" borders. It is clear that, as soon as checks at these borders are abolished following a Council decision, there will no longer be any need to apply the rules on small-scale cross-border traffic at these borders.