The European Union’s executive said yesterday emergency border controls imposed within the bloc’s free-travel zone over the migration crisis should get a final three-month extension to mid-May, but Germany wants to keep them in place longer.

The European Commission proposed that Germany, Austria, Sweden, Denmark and Norway extend border checks inside the so-called Schengen zone beyond their current expiry in February.

“We currently have temporary border controls in place. These are exceptional measures for an exceptional situation,” the bloc’s migration commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos said in proposing the extension. He made it clear, however, he wanted to restore the chief achievement of European integration in full from then on: “It’s a question of three months to come back to normal.”

However Germany, which holds elections on Sept.24 in which immigration and security will be prominent issues, wants to be able to extend the measures for longer, diplomatic sources said. With immigration into the European Union under tighter control than at the height of the crisis, that may be hard to justify. That is why Germany’s interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, will propose today changing the legal justification for the border checks to security issues.

After a series of attacks in France, Belgium and Germany in 2015 and 2016, Berlin sees this as a more solid ground for ensuring it could keep internal border checks for longer. More than a million refugees, mostly from Syria – and migrants arrived in Europe in 2015. The big number  of migrants triggered bitter disputes between EU states over how to provide for them.

The bloc has since tightened its border controls and is toughening its stance on granting asylum. Only some 360,000 people made it to Europe last year after a deal with Turkey that cut the number of arrivals in Greece. The key route to Europe now leads from the coast of the lawless Libya to Italy.

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