Schengen is (clinically) dead. Donald Tusk last week said, that Member States have only two more months to save the internal borderless area. To be honest, Schengen started to implode when its first country reestablished the border checks on the internal borders last autumn. At that time it was said that the checks will be only temporary. However, Monday’s informal meeting of the interior ministers in Amsterdam showed that this won’t be the case. Some countries requested the Commission to prepare th basis for the use of article 26 of the Schengen treaty, that allows the prolongation of the checks up to two years. The first domino is therefore falling. If it will really finally fall, there will only be the question of time when the second will follow.
So. The countries decided to sacrifice the right of the Europeans to freely move and live, without unnecessary border checks, to secure countries. Someone may say that the current situation requests extraordinary measures as this is the only way to provide for the safety of Europeans, that are menaced by immigrants. However, such thinking is completely wrong and useless and will not provide for enhanced security within Europe. There is a bigger possibility that will provoke even higher pressure on all border area, internal or external.
What mostly disturbs me about Monday’s meeting is that I didn’t notice that they would discuss about last December’s Commission proposal to create a common EU border and coast guard, in order to strengthen Frontex, that currently hasn’t any real intervention powers, even if it was established to secure EU’s external border. However, there was no discussion about it.
Instead of this we heard requests to extend the controls and a lot of mutual blaming. Specially Greece was on the target of some countries (like Austria) who threaten to expel them from Schengen if it won’t completely respect the rules. To the countries’ critics were joined by the Commission on Wednesday, when it discussed the draft Schengen evaluation report on Greece. The report, prepared by experts from the Member States, the Commission and Frontex, concludes “that Greece is seriously neglecting its obligations and that there are serious deficiencies in the carrying out of external border controls that must be overcome and dealt with by the Greek authorities.”
The draft will now be discussed by the Schengen Evaluation Committee, who will give its opinion to the Commission, who will finally adopt it. If the final report will find that Greece neglects its responsibilities, the Commission can address recommendation to the Council. After they would be adopted within the Council, Greece would have 3 months to implement them. If it wouldn’t respect the recommendations, the Commission could start the procedures under article 26 of the Schengen code which would represent the green light to the final re-establishment of checks on the internal borders.
Independently of the report’s findings is the behaviour of the countries completely unacceptable. The other countries of the Schengen area, specially those located more in the interior, should help Greece by providing the human and material resources to cope with the crisis. Especially because the countries of the external border are under the biggest pressure to secure the totality of the border in order to allow the countries in the interior to drop the checks on the internal border. Moreover, I would also expect that countries would step up and start to discuss the Commission’s proposal for the establishment of common border guards, that represents an important, if not the most important, part of the puzzle to protect the external border.
The first domino is therefore falling. I can’t predict if there is still time to put it back up and prevent the fall of the second, third, fourth and the others. unfortunately, the (in)action of the countries doesn’t permit me to be optimistic. Instead of sticking together they are more and more closing themselves and adopting decisions that were not discussed among them.
This week marks the second anniversary of the demolition of the former border control in my hometown Solkan. I hoped that this symbolic action would bring bigger integration. Unfortunately I am more and more worried that we will need to build it again. This will be followed by queues, controls, rejections and fear. Do you really want to live in a Europe like that? I really don’t.