EU member states must demonstrate a serious threat to public order and internal security to impose temporary border controls.
But government documents suggest member states are broadly allowed to deny people the right of free movement even when their own available statistics suggest that there is no major problem.
Earlier this year, the European Commission agreed for Austria, Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Norway to impose border controls for three months following ministerial letters to justify the blockades.
EUobserver has obtained letters from each of the member states, where they explain their reasons for upholding the border controls. Some admit there is no problem, while others offer scant data to support their arguments.
The commission has been pressing the states to phase out the controls without much success. The goal was to lift them all by the end of 2016.
Instead, the commission appears to be granting extensions despite the loose reasons provided to justify them.
In late January, EU commissioner for home affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos recommended the extra controls given the “unprecedented migratory pressure that Europe is facing”.