An entrepreneurial point-of view on tackling the migration crisis and the risks of abolishing Schengen

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Mrs Kassandra Petersen, Vice-President of the European Confederation of Junior Enterprises (JADE).

Kassandra Petersen

Being the Head of Public Affairs of a European Confederation of Junior Enterprises and being out at major events in Brussels, has not been easy in the last months. Whenever the question regarding my nationality came up, I quickly mumbled: “I am German”. You can imagine where the small talks were usually going, especially the weeks after the incident in Cologne. But I am also a graduate with a Master’s in International Business Law (and Management): One of the very first things you learn in any European Law course is that the European Single Market guarantees the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people. These “four freedoms” – between the EU’s member states in the Schengen Agreement, is part of the acquis communautaire. With the main provision of the freedom of movement of persons in Art. 45 of the TFEU that prohibits restrictions on the basis of nationality, the free movement of persons is therefore a fundamental right promised to all EU citizens.

So what would the abolishment of Schengen mean? At this point we should rather see it as a rhetorical question: What is the advantage then to live in Europe?

It doesn’t only imply future timely and costly effects on getting visas, but more pressing: most of our Junior Entrepreneurs grew up living the advantage of the Schengen area, having never experienced a pre-Schengen Europe, facing a situation of which they cannot estimate yet the impact on their lives (and business activities). The insecurity of what it would mean for their future, makes them not only nervous, but worried.

Even if Forbes stated in “The World’s Best Entrepreneur Visas” (2015) that the Schengen area made it unintentionally more difficult for foreign entrepreneurs to qualify for and receive a visa to start and grow new businesses in Europe, one thing is clear to us: if border controls and closure remain for more than short periods, we risk reversing decades of European integration. Various studies over the years have proven that the Schengen Agreement led its members to attract tourists, form closer trading partnerships, and increased both imports and exports, being the backbone of economic growth. Schengen is among the most visible indices of the European unity and its loss would send a powerful (unwanted) signal to the rest of the world.

We must ask furthermore, wouldn’t the re-establishment of internal borders, also affect the other promised fundamental rights: namely the free movement of goods, services and capitals?

What would convince businesses to stay in Europe rather than flee to the US? – Europe is already almost invisible compared to the Silicon Valley and the United States in general, with the latter providing a more favourite entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Going one step further: Remember the demographic problem with a rapidly ageing society especially European countries are facing, putting the social scheme of most of the EU member states at risk?  Well here is one possible solution: As most of the migrants are in between the age range of 14 to 35 – they are the (soon to be) labour force, we desperately need to secure the existing social schemes for our future generations. Furthermore, we should let mirgrants take part in the “European dream”, helping them building up their own business: it is an efficient and faster way to integrate migrants and ensure their contribution to the local economy. On a separate note, those do not only contribute by paying taxes, but we give them the opportunity to learn the business rules of their host country, which they do faster than any other worker.

Moreover, what about catching the problem at its root?

Not all migrants are here to stay. By investing in the Middle East, we could avoid future unbearable refugee streams of people fleeing chaos at home by creating safe zones in Syria, Libya and other “failed” states.

In addition, we need to stop fostering the growth of the far-right political rise in Europe, caused by the fear of the unknown and insecure outcome of this crisis and of the incidents in Paris and Cologne, masqueraded as allegedly a problem of the refugee crisis.

Last but not least, Europe needs to strengthen its external borders rather than building up internal borders. JADE, as a pan-European (!) association and its Junior Enterprises stand for sharing knowledge and learning by doing through transnational cooperation and exchange, how can we keep fulfilling our task with the burden of internal borders?

About the author

Kassandra PetersenMs. Kassandra Petersen is Vice President and Head of Public Affairs of JADE – European Confederation of Junior Enterprises, a pan-European organization fostering youth and especially student entrepreneurship. She is responsible for JADE’s external presence, promoting the Junior Enterprise-concept as a best practice to tackle skill mismatch and youth unemployment.

Before becoming JADE’s Vice President, she worked for a Junior Enterprise herself as a Quality Manager while graduating from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU), Germany with a Master’s in International Business Law and Management. She has extensive working experience in advisory, legal and public diplomacy. Furthermore, she was a mentee of various firms, had in-depth speech, negotiation and intercultural management training, and was an international observer for the OAS during presidential elections in Mexico while studying at the National University of Mexico (UNAM) as well as an intern for the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations in New York.

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