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SCHENGEN

France moves to bring back border checks

France and Germany have begun moves to reclaim powers to close their borders for up to 30 days in a simmering battle over immigration pressures on Europe's passport-free Schengen travel zone.

In a joint letter to the European Union’s Danish chair seen by AFP ahead of talks among interior ministers in Luxembourg on April 26, France’s Claude Guéant and Germany’s Hans-Peter Friedrich say the Schengen set-up, which abolished frontier controls in 1995, needs a radical revamp.

Schengen refers to an area that is home to 400 million Europeans and covers 25 states.

Guéant and Friedrich said that where a government within the area fails to meet its obligations to manage external frontiers – Greece for one is under intense migratory pressures at Europe’s south-eastern fringe – partners should have “the possibility, as a last resort, to reintroduce internal frontiers for a period not greater than 30 days”.

Currently, only the European Commission, or EU civil service, can decide short-term emergency blocks on individual frontier pressure-points.

The ministers also insisted that such decisions should not be left to permanent Brussels officials – but be left as the sole preserve of national ministers voting in the European Council of EU member states.

Fighting to hold onto power ahead of Sunday’s first-round election, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told a rally last month that without “serious progress” on a rewrite of the Schengen treaty over the coming year, “France would then suspend its participation in the Schengen accords until negotiations conclude”.

Once inside Schengen, illegal immigrants can theoretically move freely between the participating states.

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BORDERS

Switzerland and France conclude tax deal for cross-border ‘home workers’

Switzerland and France have concluded an agreement concerning cross-border employees working from their home in France during to the coronavirus pandemic.

Switzerland and France conclude tax deal for cross-border 'home workers'
shows a border between Switzerland and France closed by concrete block and adorned with Swiss flags in Presinge near Geneva. AFP
According to the State Secretariat for International Financial Matters (SFI), “the tax agreements between the two countries continue to apply as before, as long as the exceptional health measures are in force”.
 
This means that French cross-border workers will continue to be charged taxes as if they had physically gone to their workplace in Switzerland.
 
Under the taxation regime currently in place, permit G holders who work in cantons other than Geneva, have their taxes collected by French authorities.
 
However, if their place of employment is Geneva, taxes are paid in Switzerland.
 
 
In total, about 87,000 French citizens commute to work in Switzerland daily but there are no official figures on how many of them currently work from home.
 
 
The provisions of the agreement are valid until May 31st and will be renewed from month to month until Bern and Paris end health regulations that limit or discourage the movement of people.
 
However, either country may cancel the arrangement by mutual agreement at any time.
 
The SFI said that it is also in contact with authorities in Italy, Germany and Austria for the purpose of concluding similar tax agreements, clarifying tax obligations for cross-border  home workers from these countries.
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