EUROPE: OPEN BORDERS, CLOSED MINDS

Passport control has been implemented between Denmark and Sweden in the beginning of 2016 to avoid the influx of refugees. Photo credit: The Economist

As migration to Europe increases, European countries struggle to handle the crisis and open borders are put under threat. Thus, some European countries have broken the Schengen agreement, which abolishes checks at the Union’s internal borders, and implemented passport control, in order to prevent the admission of more migrants through their borders.

GHINA MOHSEN

” It is not so much the 15-30 extra minutes; it is how the whole trip goes. I used to get on the train, have a seat and have 40 minutes or so to relax, read (either for pleasure or work), so I am fresh for home ” said a commuter from Denmark to Sweden.

“…now it is a mad rush to make the metro, stand at least half of the time. Then push and squeeze your way on a train at the airport which you hope showed up on time, so you did not freeze on that wind tunnel of a platform. The train is packed solid. This is not relaxing. It is not a nice way to travel. I never know if the train is going to be on time or totally messed up, so you cannot really make plans … So yes, it sucks!”.

War after war after war, Denmark and Sweden have been through a lot together. Through 355 years, Denmark and Sweden have had a rivalry between each other. The multiple Dano-Swedish wars have ended, and the rivalry only remains limited to friendly football games, but recently, there is a new type of war they are fighting, the refugee war.

Sweden, after Germany, has agreeably accepted refugees with open arms to become an EU country which has accepted the highest number of refugees.  Sweden’s hand in hand policy to refugees has been going great until Swedish politicians realized that they can no longer support enough roofs over the refugees’ heads. The country’s migration minister suggested at that time that refugees should consider going back to Denmark or Germany.

As Denmark’s policy is a bit stricter with the refugee crisis, Danish officials were not pleased with that suggestion. 

This influx of migration caused tension between the two Scandinavian frenemies leading the fight to not only consist of football matches and teasing about each other’s languages.

Denmark and Sweden, however, have not been the only victims of this situation. Many European countries have been having trouble with each other because of their fight caused by migrants.

Border controls are back

 

EU countries that have implemented border controls are Denmark, Germany, Sweden, France, Belgium and Austria

The news of these countries breaking the Schengen rules to avoid welcoming refugees have made it to the headlines for the past couple of years. Journalists describe this phenomenon as the end of the Schengen agreement and as a major setback for the EU. However, how bad is really the situation? What are the major consequences of the passport control on borderlines?

Some countries have not been accepting refugees with open arms such as Sweden but have also struggled to deal with the migrants entering Europe. Thus, multiple European countries have introduced border checks to their fellow European neighbors.

Belgium for example, reintroduced border controls on its borderlines with France. Since countries are allowed to break Schengen agreement in cases of emergency such as terror attacks, Belgium found necessary to introduce border checks for immigrants coming from France. However, not all countries who have broken the Schengen agreement have had terrorist attacks inside of near their borders.

After Sweden has introduced border checks on its frontiers with Denmark, Denmark decided to do the same with add passport checks at the border with Germany, which also had a very welcoming refugee policy.

Austria also implemented strict border controls on its neighbors Slovenia and Italy. The central European republic brought back “walls” in Europe. The government introduced border fences with its Italian neighbors because of fear of increase in refugees crossing from the Mediterranean. It also announced building a wall at its busiest frontier with Slovenia.

Political and Financial implications

 Some might consider that adding passport control does not have any negative implications except for irritation of commuters. However, the breaking of the Schengen agreement, which was implemented initially for a reason, lead to economic losses for the EU.

As perfectly put by Politico, “Implementation is the key to solving this crisis. We talk about solidarity in an abstract and romantic way; but actual solidarity means that everyone adheres to the rules and obligations they agreed on. Countries need to let the laws we adopted take effect, and not let their neighbors down.”

According to a study by the French government, the European economy could lose up to 100 billion euros within the next 10 years if border checks stay.

Estimated economic losses of breaking the Schengen agreement between the years 2016-2025

 

More waiting time for travelers doesn’t only mean more annoyance, it also has downsides that should be considered.

According to the Economist, “Businesses likely to suffer most include those with perishable goods, such as fruit, vegetables and fish. Others will pass on costs. Suppliers will need to store extra inventory across the continent to ensure customers get deliveries on time. The German chamber of commerce says that once indirect costs, such as renting storage and the impact on transit-trade with non-EU countries, are taken into account the extra costs for Germany alone could run to €10 billion per year.”

Other than the fact that some business cannot afford to have more waiting time on the road, job opportunities for people are decreasing because of this implementation.

For example, in Sweden, some people have considered to quit their jobs in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, and finding something closer to their hometowns in Sweden where it is cheaper to buy or rent a home. “We’ve lost around 12 percent of our passengers since the ID controls were implemented,” DSB spokesman Tony Bispeskov told Denmark’s TV2. 

People were getting more frustrated by the extra 30 minute they have to wait while going or coming back from their jobs.

This affects both the Swedish and Danish economy. According to Sweden’s Orestat, “The many Swedes who have entered the Danish labor market have solved a labor shortage problem since, and had the Danish employers not been able to recruit Swedes, the Danish economy would have lost production and hence the added value.”

Skånetrafiken, a Swedish public transport operator, also said that they have sold 17% less travels cards than they did before the passport control.

One of the biggest reason for this loss of money would be from the decrease of tourism that comes along with border controls. On the EU’s official website, it states that one of the effects of border checks is the decrease in tourism and, especially day trips. This leads to a major loss for the hospitality industry.

Granted, some might argue that these losses that have been estimated are not as bad as the losses that the country is losing because of the increase in refugees in those countries. For example, in Sweden, the government wasn’t able to provide any housing for more refugees, leading to a shortage in beds from the country’s well known IKEA.

However, the refugee crisis could be solved and managed in a better way in order not to reach the point where countries have to break one of the most important European benefit, free movement of people.

In fact, fixing the Schengen agreement will not solve or put an end to the refugee crisis in Europe. The EU needs a planned strategy for the refugees and not for its borders. According to the BBC, the EU already has a flagship scheme to redistribute 160,000 migrants around the continent, but it has met only a tiny fraction of this target since it was agreed in 2015.

 This strategy has not been working well, as some countries such as France and Belgium for example, have been able to avoid the fines implemented by the EU because they are under an emergency state.

Implications have not been limited to economic consequences. With the EU and Turkey deal, which helps control the number of illegal migrants entering Europe, the number of migrants has drastically decreased. Though, the deal lead to even more severe consequences. One of the major setbacks of this deal, is the increasing number of refugees that try to cross the European border dangerously. In 2016 alone, more than 3,200 immigrants died or have went missing trying to enter Europe.

The idea of reestablishing border control between European countries has been a controversial issue and frankly, the question can’t be easily answered. However, what is clear is that a European Union characterized by open borders and free movement has been lost. In reality, the idea of open borders has been replaced by some European countries having closed minds.

Not one country can carry the number of refugees alone, but each country’s fear of dealing with refugees on its own has led to tighter borders and even a tighter mentality.

According to Jens Spahn, a member of the Green Parliament and the ruling Christian Democratic Union, to Politico, there should be other measures taken to control the migrant crisis. First, the EU must focus on securing Europe’s external borders more than it should focus on its internal borders. The most important solution he suggests, is that the EU should focus on helping and support its neighbors so that there would be no refugees running away from hard conditions in the first place.

The last solution that Spahn suggest is that EU officials must establish new and clear migration laws that will not lead to what the EU has been suffering from.

 

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *