Schengen is losing ground fast revealing Europe’s clear inability to deal with migration crisis

Press conference by Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner in Charge of Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, on the adoption of final Visa Liberalisation Reports for Georgia, Ukraine, and Kosovo. © European Union, 2015 / Source: EC - Audiovisual Service / Photo: Georges Boulougouris.

Press conference by Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner in Charge of Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, on the adoption of final Visa Liberalisation Reports for Georgia, Ukraine, and Kosovo. © European Union, 2015 / Source: EC – Audiovisual Service / Photo: Georges Boulougouris.

It was last Monday when Sweden decided to impose ID-checks at its borders with Denmark. Of course, this action didn’t remain unanswered by Denmark which tightened controls at its southern border with Germany. This anti-Schengen spirit has been created by the influx of migrants and refugees coming to Europe daily in thousands and is meant to stop undocumented migrants from reaching the aforementioned countries. EU member states are realizing the fact that Europe cannot put an end to this crisis and are taking measures in order to protect themselves.

The year that recently ended was the most intense in terms of migration and refugee waves coming to Europe from countries such as Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. This crisis has divided the Old Continent leading to the creation of border controls, fences and walls, increased the popularity of anti-migration extremist political parties and is responsible for the thousands of deaths of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean or the Aegean sea by boat.

But instead of focusing and target to the causes of this crisis, a more individualistic approach is being taken. As Mark Rhinard, an expert on the European Union at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs said: “It’s basically every country for itself now”. Hence, when countries such as Sweden, which was famous for its humanitarian spirit shown to all Syrians fleeing their country in order to escape from war conditions (received more than 160.000 refugees), are imposing ID checks to reduce the incoming migrants, then one could seriously worry who is going to support the Schengen after all.

Is Schengen agreement doomed to fail?

Denmark’s decision to impose controls at its borders with Germany led to the “furious” reaction of the latter stating that Schengen could well be doomed to fall. German foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said: “Schengen is very important but it is in danger.” Furthermore, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the rest of the bloc for a “joint European solution” on the issue. Her spokesman Steffen Seibert mentioned also added that: “The solution won’t take place on national borders between country A and country B”.

However, there are quite a few European countries (e.g. Poland, Hungary, Slovakia) which have already openly expressed their anti-migrant sentiment thus putting in great risk the Schengen agreement. What is more, senior officials involved in the policy-making have already been expressing the terrible failure probability of Schengen. More specifically, an ambassador in Brussels stated that: “If the flow of refugees is not slowed down in four to six months, people really think Schengen is in terminal trouble”.

According to Abc news, the European Commission “is expected to unveil in March “targeted” modifications to the rulebook that would tighten the external borders and improve Europe’s asylum application rules”. Migration crisis is changing Europe one way or another. The question that matters the most though is whether EU will come out more united or strongly divided after experiencing the full range of this crisis’ consequences.

EU’s inability to overcome Schengen’s fracture

Europe has taken measures especially during 2015 in order to reduce the negative consequences of the migration crisis which has become one of the “hot” issues in the European Commission’s agenda.

However, despite its efforts, only 160.000 refugees have been relocated from Greece and Italy to the rest EU countries so far in a plan to spread migrants more evenly across Europe. This plan has been receiving great resistance if one imagines that 1 million refugees have crossed into the bloc only in 2015 according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

It seems that the EU is unable to implement mandatory measures to its member states to receive further refugees leaving it to their voluntary discretion. And this will keep on deteriorating since the terrorist attacks in Paris last November after which France imposed border controls with its neighboring countries and the climate of fear that has been created in the event of future terrorist attacks.

Moreover, the EU economy will also be “injured” by the border controls that are imposed by many of its countries. This will have a direct impact on the EU citizens and companies which are transferring goods making their jobs far more difficult. Particularly, Mark Rhinard, expert on the European Union at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, said: “As soon as it starts to bite economically, people are going to start to ask: Is this the right solution to the problem?'”.

All in all, Schengen is most likely about to change in order to survive in an area where refugees’ crisis seems to be the Gordian knot for the EU officials and member states, revealing the long existing structural flaws of the project.

Follow Chris on Twitter @CAnyfantis

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