What to do with the Schengen area? The Paris terror attack raised that question to the member-countries again - they had raised it two months ago when illegal migration crisis heighted. Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, said in this regard: “Saving Schengen is a race against time and we are determined to win that race. Without effective control of our external borders, Schengen will not survive. We must hurry, but without panic.”
Yet panic emerged in Paris and it still continues.
The Schengen crisis has several aspects. It has turned out that its rules are not applied to the refugees flooding the Schengen area. The governments of the EU countries even have no exact data on the number of the new refugees arriving in their countries.
This summer, Hungary became the first to openly refuse to implement the Dublin Regulation under which refugees are required to claim asylum in the member state in which they first arrive. In September, the situation with migrants has deteriorated and it seemed that the situation got out of control. Crowds of migrants stormed the Schengen area, while “new Europeans” refused to fulfill the demands of “old Europeans” to settle refugees under the refugee quotas. This incident demonstrated that EU lacks a single refugee policy. The calls by the wealthy EU countries for European solidarity and implementation of the refugee quotas received no elicit response from the “poor” ones. It was quite fair given that the calls by the “poor” EU countries for solidarity in the middle of the debt crisis of 2012 received no response from their “wealthy” neighbors.
Emergency meetings at various levels over the migration crisis in Europe have brought no result so far. The last Valetta Summit of November 12 2015 has actually ended in nothing. So far, the forecasted expenses on the migration crisis management may exceed EUR20 billion. It will seriously hurt the European economy and financial stability. Meantime, expenses continue, EU has approved EUR3 billion to Turkey as “a grant for refugees.” Europe really hopes Turkey will keep 2.2 million refugees that fled Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Brussels plans a high-level meeting with Turkey later this month. Illegal migration to Europe via Turkey will be the key issue on the agenda. As envisioned by the organizers, Turkey should become a paid guard on the Schengen borders.
Europe seeks do the same with Africa. At the last Summit in Malta, the EU launched a EUR1.8 billion emergency fund to stem refugee flows from Africa. Meantime, EU has been providing by EUR20-billion assistance to the African states annually. Actually, it does not help stop the refugee flow. The governments in the African countries anticipate an inflow of foreign exchange from the migrants settling in Europe. EU suggested returning the migrants that were not granted asylum back to their countries, but it requires big funds. As for the African countries, they consider the deportation as a discriminatory measure. Actually, they refuse to take the migrants back.
Refugees must be kept somewhere. The European Commission weighs creation of temporary transit zones for migrants inside Schengen. Under the Schengen Agreement, transit zones are to be created on the external borders of the Schengen zone and at airports. On the internal borders transit zone can be created as a temporary measure for a period of several weeks, but never on a permanent basis. They now want to change that provision to create transit zones – a kind of filtration camps for migrants. A relevant provision of the Schengen Agreement may undergo major changes.
Meantime, on the external borders of the Schengen area they are erecting walls, while the control is restored on the internal borders. This month Hungary was the first to start building a fence on its southern border that is at the same the external border of the Schengen area. On November 11, Slovenia started erecting a razor-wired fence on the border with Croatia. On November 12, Sweden restored the frontier control – it received the biggest number of refugees comparing to the other EU countries. Germany that warmly received refugees earlier in September now weighs application of the Dublin regulation to send the refuges back to the first EU country they had crossed into. Leader of the Christian Social Union in Bavaria – Prime Minister Horst Seehofer and German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière say it is high time to close borders and display a more selective approach to the provision of a refugee status.
Earlier this month, France said it would restore the temporary control on its borders – internal borders of Schengen – for the period of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris on Nov 30 – Oct 11 2015. However, France had to restore the border control two week earlier, as terror attacks happened in Paris.
Paris attacks demonstrated that the Schengen area has become a serious threat to the security of EU. In the case of Paris, it was found out that the center of terrorists was in Brussels and they freely crossed the border into France to prepare the terror attacks.
The Schengen area will become the major issue at the emergency meeting of the EU Interior Ministers Friday, on November 20. The French authorities demand toughening of rules. In particular, Paris suggests applying PNR (Passenger Name Record) system to the flights inside the EU too. PNR system enables security services to crosscheck the registered passengers 48 hours before the scheduled flight. Apart from that, France demands “systematic coordination” and “systematic consultations.” These are general words. Yet, it makes one specific suggestion too: EU needs to create an all-European border and coastal guard immediately. France pushes “Smart border” checks for EU nationals too. Paris says the EU countries must use the Schengen Information System (SIS) in full to exchange information.
The euro crisis and the current Schengen crisis appear to have very similar reasons. Both demand closer integration of the European Union. The present form of the union of sovereign states does not meet these requirements. A single currency requires a single budget or at least a single budgetary policy within the Eurozone. The single Schengen area, in turn, requires a single border service and single police with migration agencies inside that perimeter. So far, there are only separate instruments - e-database on the wanted persons in Europe - that could be useful to these services. In addition, there is a certain European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Schengen area - Frontex.
Instead of taking specific measures, European countries are debating over Schengen, while the national services are exchanging data that could to make the security measures more effective too slowly.
Schengen is, of course, an achievement of the European integration that does not meet the real level of that integration. Schengen’s existence is questioned now, which means a dramatic regress in the EU integration. The visas will not be resorted between the EU countries, of course, but the border control inside the EU will be restored. Although the border cannot be guarded entirely, but the entry into the country through the key transport routes will be controlled strictly with use of Smart Border system. They will try to bring the Schengen area in conformity with the level of integration in the EU. Certain retreat is inevitable.