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Schengen is not the problem, the lack of Europe is

, by Juuso Järviniemi

Europe is closing its borders, both external and internal. Germany, Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic recently imposed border controls while images of Hungarian officers using water cannons and tear gas on migrants on its Serbian frontier hit the news. These developments have already been called ”the end of Schengen”.

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This mustn’t be the end. ’Snubbing Schengen’, as Nico Segers put it on The New Federalist a couple of weeks ago, wouldn’t stop the flow of migrants or end terrorism. Instead, it would inevitably have negative repercussions on tourism and trade between European states but also regular Europeans’ everyday life. L’Express says that the re-establishment of internal borders in Europe would first affect cross-border commuters who number more than 350,000 in France only.

Additionally, L’Express points out that border controls wouldn’t only concern people but they would also have an impact on products moving from one country to another. Administrative costs would increase, which consumers would immediately see in the grocery store. Cross-border trade in Europe more than doubled between 1995 and 2012 but the end of Schengen would obviously be harmful to it.

As fundamental a part of European integration the Schengen Agreement is, it hasn’t been taken far enough. The Economist notes that individual states are still responsible for the external borders of the European Union. At present it appears that the resources of these states, such as Hungary, Italy, Malta and Greece, are not sufficient, something Michael Binyon who writes about Germany’s decision to start temporary border checks as the end of Schengen on Politico Europe would agree with. Binyon calls for stronger external borders to stop drug smuggling and check migrants. Enhanced joint efforts would enable Europe to better perform these tasks without tear gas. One could ask what the costs of such efforts would be; the answer is that they’d certainly be lower than hiring officials to the dozens of internal borders the EU has.

In the ”Shooting Schengen” article on The Economist, the list of functions still handled by individual Member States isn’t limited to border controls. ”[E]xternal borders, migration policies and policing remain in the hands of national governments”, reads the whole sentence. A European migration policy would fit in the bigger picture together with making the external borders of the EU more European; once the asylum seekers have been documented adequately, they could be relocated efficiently. Common standards for the acceptance of asylum seekers would make it useless to sneak across one country to enter another one. No more drama at railway stations! No more hiding fingers from officials! All we need is a political agreement.

The refugee crisis isn’t the only reason why free movement is under fire. The Thalys train attack brought about calls to change Schengen. The anti-European reasoning goes somehow like this: free movement allows criminals and terrorists to do their evil deeds and easily escape law enforcement across the nearest border. Like to many other problems, a solution can be found from more Europe. By enabling police forces to exchange information more efficiently, the EU would in this sense be much like any country. Crime knows no borders, neither should the police. This is how the free movement of law-abiding citizens isn’t obstructed by the delinquent minority.

It is evident that Europe is facing serious problems at its borders. Nevertheless, abolishing Schengen would unnecessarily harm fields that aren’t directly connected to the ongoing refugee crisis, such as tourism and international trade within Europe. On the contrary, more Europe could bring us closer to a sustainable solution, both when it comes to the migrants and to the likes of the Thalys attack.

This article has been reproduced by permission of the author. The original publication of this article can be found at Undivided Europe.

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