The Beginning of the End of Schengen?

July 9, 2018 Europe , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

Reuters photo

 

By

Tom Arms

 

 

Angela Merkel last week negotiated an internal German compromise on the touchy issue of immigration. The grand coalition government is saved—for now.

 

Actually, the compromise is more of a policy reversal than a compromise. And the reversal could be the beginning of the end for one of the pillars of the European Union—the open borders Schengen Agreement.

 

One of the cornerstones of the EU is free movement of people and labour. You cannot really have free movement with closed borders, hence the Schengen Agreement.

 

But open borders has also meant that once an immigrant lands on European soil they can move anywhere in Europe. The result was that the refugees who land in economically depressed Italy or Greece don’t stay there. They march to wealthy Germany where they are crying out for low-paid workers to fuel the insatiable German economic engine. This is exactly what more than a million of them did in 2015.

 

They were welcomed by the overwhelming majority. But a large and vocal minority joined the anti-Islamic Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) which managed to win representation in the last general election and is now threatening to siphon off support for the conservative Bavarian-based Christian Social Union (CSU), long-term sister party of Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

 

The result was a threat from CSU leader Horst Seehofer (who is also the minister responsible for immigration) to unilaterally close Germany’s southern borders unless Mrs Merkel secured a Europe-wide deal on the immigration crisis. She tried. She achieved a step in the right direction. But it was not nearly enough.

 

The CSU went into a hastily-summoned emergency session. Should Seehofer carry out his threat? Should he simply resign? Should he back down? The party was split. They didn’t want to collapse the government but neither did they want more of the same on immigration. They took the middle course. Seehofer announced his resignation.

 

This also threatened the coalition so Mrs Merkel announced a “compromise” to keep Seehofer tied to her apron strings. The compromise is that Germany will establish “transit” centres on its southern border with Austria to process immigrants while at the same time continuing to pursue a Europe-wide solution to the problem.

 

Austrians, however, are concerned that they will be stuck with the immigrants being refused admittance to Germany. So staunchly anti-immigrant Austrian President Sebastian Kurz has announced that he will be closing his country’s southern borders with Italy. Hungary has already closed its border with a razor-topped fence and, armed guards and attack dogs. Italy, meanwhile, have elected a right-left anti-immigrant coalition whose immigration minister has declared: “Enough is enough.”

 

Theoretically the borders are only being closed to refugees and economic migrants. EU citizens should continue to be free to walk, drive or fly across national lines without any checks or hindrance. But how do the customs officials differentiate an EU citizen from a refugee? Will the latter be required to sew a crescent moon on their coat?

 

 

 

 

Tom Arms

I am a journalist, entrepreneur and historian with extensive experience in print, web and broadcast journalism. I started as a diplomatic correspondent, wrote several books (The Falklands Crisis, World Elections On File and the Encyclopedia of the Cold War), and then in 1987 started my own business (Future Events News Service, www.fensinformation.com) which over 25 years established itself as the world and UK media’s diary. Our strapline was: “We set the world’s news agenda.” I sold FENS in December 2012 but retained the exclusive broadcast rights to all of FENS data. To exploit these rights I set up LookAhead TV which produces unique programmes which “Broadcasts Tomorrow Today” so that viewers can “Plan to Participate.” LookAhead has appeared regularly on Vox Africa, Radio Tatras International, The Conversation and Voice of Africa Radio.

In addition to being a syndicated broadcaster and columnist on global affairs, Tom is also available for speaking engagements and can be contacted on TwitterLinkedin and emailtom.arms@lookaheadnews.com.

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