Is Schengen on the verge of collapse?

Faced with hundreds of thousands of refugees on the move, several Schengen countries have reintroduced temporary border controls. French experts estimate that the EU economy would lose around 100 billion euros if permanent border controls are introduced in the Schengen zone. Can the Europe without borders still be saved?

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Kathimerini (GR) /

Europe between a rock and a hard place

Walls and fences won't save Europe, the conservative daily Kathimerini is convinced:

“It's impossible in our day and age to build walls to establish Europe as some kind of imaginary Christian fortress. On the other hand, however, it's clear that Islam is largely incompatible with European values and that there are considerable difficulties integrating Muslims into European society. We find ourselves at a crossroads. Either Europe will continue to work with little steps and compromises, defusing contradictions and tensions like a big melting pot. Or it will take a step backwards, whereby certain countries will revert to isolationism and nationalism and put an end to the European project.”

Új Szó (SK) /

Small states pay the price

The likely collapse of the Schengen system would have a major negative impact on export-oriented countries in particular, warns economist Zsolt Gál in the Slovakian daily Új Szó:

“Will illegal immigration be curbed and will the Schengen system be reformed enough to avoid its collapse? As things look now the answer to both questions is no. The flood of refugees won't dwindle and because of the EU's cumbersome decision-making system it doesn't seem likely that the member states will agree on a compromise that stops the influx with laws and effective border protection. It's obvious that if this is the case small EU states like Slovakia which are very export-oriented will pay the price when exports of all kinds are constantly delayed at national borders.”

Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

Schengen could very soon be history

The freedom of movement within the Schengen Area could collapse in a matter of weeks, MEP and former Foreign Minister Urmas Paet writes in the liberal daily Eesti Päevaleht:

“The EU's agreements with Turkey have failed to have any effect, and the situation in the refugee camps is dismal. So far neither the common border controls and coastal surveillance, nor the so-called blue cards for legal immigration have had any impact, and there is no sign of a common asylum policy. ... It is high time we changed our policy. Because if we don't do something soon freedom of movement in the Schengen Area will be history in a matter of weeks. Europe is in an extraordinary situation and it needs extraordinary measures to get a grip on events and preserve cohesion in the EU. The only way to save the Schengen Area is to create a pan-European border control authority and coastal surveillance.”

Iltalehti (FI) /

No alternative to even stricter policy

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö warned on Wednesday that Europe would not be able to cope with uncontrolled migration movements like the one it is currently facing for long. Such statements could lead to an even stricter refugee policy, the tabloid Iltalehti fears:

“We must respect human rights, but like Niinistö we must also see the problems associated with the increasingly uncontrolled immigration. And we must not close our eyes to the fact that the refugees who are suffering most are not receiving any help. ... It would be regrettable if the president's realism were used to push through an even stricter immigration policy. But that will no doubt be the case. ... Defence Minister Jussi Niinstö has already interpreted the statement as a clear message of support for a more rigid refugee policy.”

Jornal i (PT) /

Cornerstone of European project must be protected

Europe and the Portuguese government in particular must fight to preserve Schengen, the daily I warns:

“Like all other countries and nations involved in the European project, Portugal benefits in many ways from the Schengen Area. It would be disastrous if it were to come to an end. So there seems to be only one option: to fight for Schengen. Our government should do this too, because the higher interests of the nation demand it. Schengen stands for business and jobs - for much more than security or even security mania. Many of those pushing for Schengen's demise are the same old Eurosceptics as ever. … It's regrettable that the talk about terrorism, economic migrants and the flood of refugees is being used to destroy a cornerstone of the European project.”

Salzburger Nachrichten (AT) /

Border controls not the end for Europe

People shouldn't overreact to the reintroduction of border controls in the Schengen Area, the Christian daily Salzburger Nachrichten warns:

“Countries are allowed to reintroduce border controls in exceptional circumstances and for a certain period of time, as long as they report it to the EU Commission. Moreover the reintroduction of controls within the Schengen zone doesn't necessarily mean that 'the borders are being sealed'. EU citizens can continue to cross borders freely and retain their right to freedom of movement. Goods, too, can circulate freely within the Schengen Area. And even without Schengen the single market would still work. For one thing it's older than Schengen, so it was already in place and functioning before the agreement. And for another not all the countries of the single market are part of the Schengen zone, for instance the UK, which is an important member of the single market.”

24 Chasa (BG) /

Bring peace to Middle East rather than closing borders

Closing borders is futile because only an end to the wars in the Middle East can have a lasting impact in reducing the number of refugees coming to Europe, the daily 24 Chasa writes:

“The refugee problem must be tackled at its root. The Middle East must be pacified, the civil war in Syria must end and the IS must be destroyed. Russia's provocations must stop and the EU must fulfill its obligations to Turkey and vice versa. A new way to manage the flow of refugees must be found because the Dublin Regulation can't be enforced. ... All that will take years, and even if Europe masters the challenge it must realise that the mass of refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria is just the beginning. ... All those who believe we can seal ourselves off by closing our borders are closing their eyes to reality.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

Control borders for three years

To buy time in the refugee crisis the EU should temporarily suspend the Schengen Agreement, the liberal business daily Handelsblatt urges:

“The wave of refugees is threatening the Schengen Area because adequate controls on the outer borders can't be guaranteed. Cooperation among police authorities as stipulated in the agreement isn't happening where it should. … A realistic approach would be to redouble all efforts to secure the outer borders, to ensure cross-border police cooperation, to fight criminal smugglers, to ensure uniform application of the Geneva refugee convention and to set rules for distributing the refugees. We should plan in a period of say three years for this. During this period the Schengen agreement should be suspended - by all parties! This makes sense not only for Europe, but also for the individual member states.”

Trouw (NL) /

Mini Schengen out of the question

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has called on Europe to come up with a solution to the refugee crisis within two months. But his Plan B - a mini Schengen - would have disastrous consequences, warns the Christian social daily Trouw:

“This plan would be a defeat. It foresees a very trimmed down Schengen zone in which free travel in Europe is limited to just a handful of countries. That in itself would be bad enough. But above all this plan threatens to further erode the EU and consequently also jeopardise the single market and the euro. … Plan B must not be an option. The Dutch EU Council presidency must put all its energy into finding a way out of this impasse together with Turkey. If it doesn't, we'll be facing not just a refugee crisis but a European crisis to boot.”

Berlingske (DK) /

Member states need to agree on action

The Danish Liberal Alliance party has suggested that Denmark stop taking in refugees for two years and put the money into refugee camps in the Middle East instead. The conservative daily Berlingske Tidende warns the EU against wasting more time, otherwise such proposals will become the reality:

“The longer it takes for the EU to reach an agreement, the more countries will come up with protective measures of their own. The controls are becoming tighter, to the point that soon we'll no longer be able to speak of free movement and open internal borders. That would deal a tragic blow to cooperation and growth in the EU. ... First of all the checking, sorting and sending back of refugees must take place in Greece and Italy. If these countries can't do that on their own they'll have to hand over responsibility to the EU. The countries that are blocking a joint EU solution are to blame when other governments start coming up with increasingly creative solutions against migration.”

Karjalainen (FI) /

The EU has always pulled through so far

Despite all predictions to the contrary the liberal daily Karlaijanen is convinced that the EU won't fail because of the refugee crisis:

“All over Europe the stance vis-a-vis refugees has hardened. To overcome the crisis cooperation is needed, because the states won't manage it on their own. Finland also has an EU outer border and Finland's border is no longer completely protected. But there is no reason to believe that the EU will collapse because of the refugee crisis. That was already supposed to happen because of the economic crisis but in the end the EU got its act together and solved the problems. It's typical of the EU to have problems agreeing on something but to manage it in the end - albeit at the last minute.”