The European Commission has asked Belgium for legal clarifications, a spokeswoman said Saturday, days after the country stepped up border controls due to fears of migrants crossing from France.
Belgium announced Tuesday that it would deploy several hundred police officers to the French border, in an effort to prevent migrants from entering the country after the clearing of a camp in the French city of Calais.
The commission, the EU’s executive, has requested information on the legal basis, the duration and the justification for the controls, spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud told dpa, without going into detail following a media report.
Belgian daily La Libre Belgique had reported that EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos sent a letter to Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and Interior Minister Jan Jambon.
In it, he said that Brussels should have notified the commission and member states ahead of the move, noting that the controls could only apply for a limited period.
In an emergency situation, such as appears to be the case in Belgium, "border controls cannot be introduced for more than a period of 10 days," Avramopoulos wrote, according to the newspaper.
Belgium wants to keep the controls in place for a month, the Belga news agency reported. It is the latest in a series of countries to reintroduce border controls in Europe's Schengen area, amid concerns that the future of the free travel zone is at risk.
But Michel defended the move, in an interview with Le Soir newspaper published Saturday.
"I'm taking my European responsibility, but that does not lead me to naivety or to stand idly by before we wake up in three months' time with a camp of 3,000 people in a dramatic humanitarian situation," the premier said.
Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said the border checks could be extended beyond the initial 10 days granted under Schengen rules, adding that it was enough to show that a problem exists. "You just have to go to the border to realize that there are indeed problems," he told the RTBF broadcaster.
Belgium will explain the move to the commission on Monday, Jambon's office told La Libre Belgique.