European Union leaders agreed Friday to tighten migration safeguards, including potentially reintroducing border controls between states, in a controversial response to an influx of migrants fleeing North Africa's upheaval.
The proposals clear the way for border controls between states to be reintroduced in cases when a government fails to sufficiently protect the bloc's external frontiers from an influx of immigrants.
The push for new rules is unlikely to bring tight limits on free movement of people, but it underlines growing hostility towards immigration and concerns over unrestricted travel in parts of Europe.
Citizens of all 27 EU states are generally allowed to travel freely throughout the bloc. Twenty-two EU states and three non-members have gone further, eliminating border controls between them entirely under the Schengen agreement, named for a village in Luxembourg where the pact was signed in 1985.
France has campaigned strongly for the right to stop migrants from crossing its borders. Other EU governments have cautioned against allowing fears over immigration to damage one of the main achievements of European integration.
Heads of the EU's 27 member states said at a summit in Brussels that border controls could be introduced in truly critical circumstances, but added that free movement of people was a fundamental freedom.
Speaking after the summit, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that without reforms, Europe's Schengen zone would be damaged by unilateral moves by EU states.
I have been very pleased that we took that step, because I really value Schengen and I insisted that if Schengen was not reformed then there was a risk that it could disappear, he emphasized.