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Friday, 15 June 2012

Back to the past – The Schengen debate and its destructive power

It seems like not even the Council of the European Union, the intergovernmental institution of the European Union, believes in the future of the EU anymore. A week ago, a Franco-German plan for border reinforcement starts a massive uproar in the European Parliament. The plan of Paris and Berlin would lead to a suspension of the Schengen Agreement in terms of the reintroduction of border controls.

Such a reintroduction of border controls in the Schengen Area (which consists of in total 26 member states) would be a slap in the face of the fundamental European freedom of movement for its citizens and of goods. It started already last year when France and Denmark unilaterally reintroduced border controls, as a preemptive measure to limit irregular migration trafficking into Denmark.

Now, the new Franco-German move is based on the same reasons: as a precautionary measure to secure the outer borders of the Schengen Area. Originally, this plan was brought into debate by the EU-Commission, but the member states rejected even the idea of such a discussion. Now, the Council of the Ministers of the Interior pushed the discussion forward by excluding the European Parliament from the decision making procedure, and implementing rules under which circumstances border controls should be imposed. Several MEPs already announced vast protests against this decision, and their number is growing.

The entire subject is set in the worst possible time imaginable, right in the middle of the Euro-Crisis when everyone is awaiting the election results in Greece. In a time in which there are only two camps – pro or anti EU and Euro – every single move or debate about the fundamental achievements of the European integration process can have severe consequences on the credibility of the entire EU system. When the top EU institutions start a general debate on one of the greatest EU achievements, it could be interpreted as a sign that even our top EU policy and decision makers no longer believe in their European Union.

For the European public, this is a further indication that Europe is not only deteriorating in its crisis, but also initiating its own demise into the next crucial step. If border controls are being reintroduced on a wider scale, it would just be the beginning of a complete disintegration of Europe, aside from a possible break-up of one or more member states out of the EMU.

Imagine this possible scenario:
First, Greece drops out of the Euro-Zone. Secondly, more Cyprus and Italy will need to be bailed out by the ESM, which already overstretches the EU’s financial capabilities. Thirdly, the Schengen Agreement will be suspended as a “precautionary measure against human trafficking or mass migration into the EU”. After that, more crisis countries consider leaving the Euro-Zone, and even do so. In a final act, those EU member states which have not been seriously affected by the crisis yet – such as the Netherlands and Germany – will be fully hit by it as well. This will lead to some EU member states to apply article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union, and to withdraw from the EU – leading for potential accession candidates to withdraw their application to join the EU.
And finally, more and more people, policy and decision makers will consider a complete collapse of the EU within the next 10 to 15 years.

Can you actually imagine this to happen? And do you want this to happen?

The entire debate on the future of the EU should be focused on the very essence of how to rescue the EU by useful strategies and policy implementation, and not by detail debate on the fundamental privileges and freedoms of the European citizens. It seems that the main policy makers are losing track and overview on the key issues of the current crisis and try to deviate to debates which are counterproductive and even harmful to the crisis.

A question remains: is our political elite still convinced of the EU per se? And if they really are, why do they discuss and question the foundations of our Europe? This is not the way of rescuing the EU, but maybe they cannot be bothered any longer.

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