Schengen is failing. The EU’s flagship policy that allowed for the free-movement of people within the EU’s borders is unravelling at the seams.
When Angela Merkel announced that Germany would welcome all that sought refuge at its border in September 2015, the move was celebrated as a sign of Germany’s progressive leadership. Today, the reality of inciting rather than discouraging large scale migration via treacherous and criminal channels has been tragically well documented.
A second reality now hitting home is that large-scale uncontrolled migration inevitably leads to host communities feeling some strain as more and more people settle in those areas.
Schengen functions when numbers remain manageable; allowing countries and local authorities the time to deal with the influx of new arrivals. It does not work when countries allow, and in some cases aid, large numbers of non-EU migrants to move through their territory onto a neighbouring one – as Greece and Italy have effectively done this year.
Instead of registering them as stipulated by the Dublin Accords – the EU rules to register asylum seekers and put the burden of responsibility for care on the first EU country reached – they have allowed thousands to attempt to make their way to their preferred final destination.
This breakdown in the system saw countries ignore their responsibilities and pass on the problem to their immediate neighbours. This lead to the shambolic scenes in southern Europe this autumn where some countries tried to stop the migrants with border guards and wire-fences or in other cases attempted to register asylum seekers as they were asked, only to find that the migrants only wanted to pass through their country and therefore didn’t want to be registered there.
In all an estimated 1 million refugees and migrants entered the EU in 2015 and in response a number of countries have adopted measures to stem the flow of these new arrivals in order to ease the pressure on their communities and seek to avoid any backlash from the existing population.
Following the Paris terror attacks in November, France re-introduced border controls. Germany also, embarrassingly, has had to introduced border controls in 2015 while Austria is going as far as putting up a barbed wire fence along its border with Schengen EU-member Slovenia.
The repercussions are also being felt further afield as the migration pushes on northwards.
On Monday, Sweden – traditionally one of the most welcoming of EU countries – began carrying out ID-checks on its border with Denmark. Denmark, responded by introducing checks at its borders with Germany.
AECR Secretary-General, Daniel Hanann MEP, said:
“It’s sad to see Eurocrats prioritising the survival of Schengen over either security concerns or, indeed, refugee welfare. Let’s admit the truth: sovereign borders make responsible neighbours. We’ve been brought to the present breakdown by the tragedy of the common.”
The EU is responding in the only way it knows how: by calling for more power to be handed over to the Eurocrats in Brussels. Its controversial proposal for an EU border guard that could override national authorities was met with staunch scepticism. It was precisely because of Schengen that Europe’s capitals were able to waive their border control responsibilities. Relieving them of even more responsibility and handing over such decisions to the EU’s unaccountable and distant institutions would be disastrous.