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...The easy option! Suspend the Schengen! Bravo!
by Christos Mouzeviris
2011-05-20 06:38:42
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What a lovely act of unity, an inspirational example of Europe and its leaders acting in solidarity when dealing with difficult issues! What have we been witnessing for the past few weeks, when the crisis hit north Africans took to the boats to enter Europe, was the (still) selfish and nationalist reaction of each E.U. state. Trying to protect their own interests instead of seeing the problem as a European one, they took their time and lots of debate to find a solution to a common problem, only to come to a decision that protects national interests first.

It is well known that the southern and eastern E.U. states receive the bulk of illegal immigrants that want to reach the European labor market. But of course they are not necessarily the desired destination! Most immigrants that reach Malta, Greece, Italy and Spain desire to start a new life in the more developed northern or western states, Germany, France, Britain, the Benelux and the Scandinavian states!

The problem is not national one, rather a European one. One would think that the response should come with a united front! Wrong! In every occasion the problem was mainly dealt on a national level with some help from Frontex. Each country defended its own immigration policies and the countries that did not have external borders with non EU/ Schengen states were not as willing to share the problem.

So recently Mr. Berlusconi and Mr. Sarkozy kick-started a new debate on suspending the Schengen Agreement, at least temporarily in response of the mass exodus of the Arabs from North Africa! It is not unheard to do so, and it will not be the first time that it happened; a Schengen state is permitted by articles 23 to 31 of the Schengen Borders Code to reinstate border controls for a short period if deemed in the interest of national security, but has to follow a consultation procedure before such an action.

This occurred in Portugal during the 2004 European Football Championship and in France for the ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of D-Day. Spain temporarily reinstated border controls during the wedding of Crown Prince Felipe in 2004. It was used again by France, Finland, Germany, Austria and Malta at some stage on different occasions regarding security concerns during sport events, terror attacks in London or visits of important religious or political figures.

But here we do not have a problem that will last a few days or weeks. We do not know how long it will last, or how many people will attempt to enter Europe. We are not dealing with fans of a foot ball team rather with desperate refugees that need to be treated humanly first, but also we need to decide if, how many and in which countries will we allocate them. It is impossible for one single country to bare the weight of such humanitarian crisis, especially since it is a European problem.

Slowly many other states shared Berlusconi's and Sarkozy's views, and in meetings they debated the temporary suspension of the Schengen Agreement! Well instead of discussing the possibility of dealing united with the issue, they preferred to reintroduce border controls in the internal borders of EU states. Instead coordinating all efforts at the borders of EU/Schengen and sharing the responsibilities and the decisions, the Italians decided to grand visas to many Tunisians without the agreement of the French. The French stopped them at their borders with Italy, since most of them being French speakers, headed to France as soon as they got their visas.

That shows what a farce and comedy Europe's immigration policies are, and it also shows the cracks in European unity (if it ever really existed). The Schengen Agreement is one of the symbols of Europe and E.U. and one of the main rights of every EU citizen is freedom of movement! So instead of sending more patrols in the Italian/Greek/Maltese/Spanish borders comprised and funded by all E.U. states, they preferred to act on the populist reactions and wishes of the public; "threat of more immigrants, quick close OUR borders!"

Instead of sending French (or other EU national) border patrols in Lampedusa to assist the Italians with the crisis, or deciding if we are going to accept some of the immigrants, how are we going to redistribute them all over the EU, how long will they stay, how are we going to repatriate them if we decide to do so, where can these people stay temporarily and for how long......Issues that are of the utmost importance, our leaders decided to suspend one of our main E.U. citizen rights "temporarily", expecting that they will make a better decision later on or the crisis will simply pass(??). Well not if Europe continues to prevent both its southern states and its southern neighbors, equal opportunities for growth and development!

As if we haven't had enough of seeing another of the European symbols being put to question (the euro), seeing the divisions of the European public over the loans needed to stabilize the euro-zone and the sharpening of the gap between the rich and poor in Europe, now we see Europe reinstalling its borders. And not just in one state but potentially all of them. This could definitely could lead to the redesigning of the Schengen Agreement (as it is being discussed) and changing the way we travel for good. Is Europe imploding back to what it was before, is it turning to a more nationalist, conservative and protectionist model?

Because if you have immigration problems, you simply deal with them not by redesigning the freedom of movement, but the immigration policies of Europe. The illegal immigrants coming now from northern Africa can not stay (not all of them). We must provide them with temporary homes, and as soon as the crisis ends in their countries we must send most of them back, with exceptions of course. If we allow and encourage them to have a stable and sustainable democratic system, economies and equal opportunities for growth as we (well most of us) do, then they will have to reason for them to flood Europe and put Europe in crisis again. If we simply allow them to enter Europe and stay, those changes will not take place, as the easiest option will always be to cross the borders and claim asylum status!

Meanwhile, I am bracing myself for new changes on the way and the terms I will be traveling from now on; remember what happened after the terror and the attempted terror attacks in the UK and the airport regulations that followed?

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Emanuel Paparella2011-05-20 16:48:43
Robert Frost declared in one of his poems that “fences make for good neighbors” but then he wondered whether or not such is truly the case. A fence is always a sign of mistrust and even selfishness. Many wars in Europe were fought over borders. What Napoleon was fighting for was not freedom, equality and brotherhood but the greater France. But of course nations and even super-nations need borders to define one’s sovereignty and even one’s identity. How could an ancient Greek have defined himself as such unless there were borders defining Greece and dividing Greeks from barbarians? I suppose borders are like the skin of a body which separates the body from the outer environment and protects the inside organs of the body. But there is something intriguing about skin which may be instructive for political bodies too: it is porous and it breathes through its pores, and if it is not porous it will not only fail to protect the inside organs but it will kill them. To transpose the metaphor to the union called EU, it would appear that to erect rigid borders and declare Europe fortress Europe which selfishly keeps its wealth for itself unconcerned for the poverty and misery existing just beyond its borders is to ensure that those rigid walls will eventually crumble like the walls of Jericho. Indeed the above analysis based on the failure to embrace economic solidarity while shedding crocodiles’ tears over the violation of human rights on the part of Mideast dictators, is right on target and bears some serious reflection.

Eu622011-05-21 19:35:32
It is high time that more people do it like you and say: "We are the true Europeans, we see more advantages than disadvantages with Schengen etc." What we know is that there are people entirely dissatisfied, like the True Finns. But is 19,1% the tip of the iceberg or as much as they will ever get. We don't know, because nobody who is satisfied with the EU stages a big demonstration (the Parada Schumanna in Warsaw probably being a notable and noble exception). And the voice of protest tends always to be louder than the voice of consent. So it is our task (and predominantly that of your generation, Chris) to say: "yes we want to keep the Euro and Schengen and the EU"

Two final remarks: "Keep the EU" does not mean for me "Keep it exactly the way it is, but let the process evolve as it has done since 1952.
I know that keeping the Euro will mean transfer payments form Germany to Greece (for instance) und das ist gut so!


Christos Mouzeviris2011-05-21 20:28:10
Thanx Hans for your comments.And we agree on it totally...No, everything is not rosy in EU and Europe, but the problems arise from holding back... We have created something that needs more commitment and co-operation between the European nations, but we are afraid to give it our full commitment, to stop thinking on a national level and while we have a common currency and market, when it comes to one economy we stumble..So the problems arise..The euro demands certain things that our leaders do not want to give to each other and their people..It is not the euro's fault rather bad political (in-)decisions...Until we, the ordinary folk decide to take control of EU in our own hands, thus giving full power to the EuroParliament and becoming more federal, things are going to go in circles in EU and Europe..But when you have some states like Britain, Czech Republic and many Scandinavian states that are in only for the benefits and cherry pick what they want, but they are unwilling to fully commit to the project, is it any wonder that EU is failing...?

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