Of all the crises to hit Europe over the past years, the migration crisis remains the greatest threat to the survival of the European Union, says the Wall Street Journal.
The arrival of more than a million migrants in 2015 provoked panic not so much because the numbers were in themselves unmanageable but because of fears that this was the tip of a very large iceberg. The EU may have managed to secure a degree of control over the numbers as arrivals have slowed to the low hundreds in recent weeks, but the sense of panic hasn’t gone away.
Indeed, the threat to the EU’s survival may even be growing, for reasons that go beyond the immediate impact of migration and strike at the heart of the European project itself.
Until now, this threat has largely been seen in terms of the possible collapse of the EU’s Schengen passport-free travel zone—an outcome that could have highly destabilizing economic and political consequences. The costs of increased border delays and new administrative burdens alone could lead to a 10%-20% collapse in intra-EU cross-border trade, the equivalent of imposing a 3% tax on the value of all cross-border goods and services trade, according to a European Commission analysis.
Giving up on Schengen would also send a profoundly negative signal to markets about the EU’s capacity to find common solutions to common problems, including delivering the deeper integration needed to underpin the single currency. “Without Schengen and the free movement of workers, of citizens, the euro makes no sense,” Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said earlier this year.
The EU’s efforts to hang onto Schengen currently hang in the balance. Six countries have imposed temporary border checks, as they are allowed to do under Schengen rules if the commission agrees they face a particular emergency arising from failures of other member states to police the zone’s external borders. The EU has put pressure on Greece and Italy to strengthen their external border controls and improve their migrant registration process. It has also put forward new plans for a common border force and concluded a controversial deal with Turkey, whereby illegal entrants without a valid asylum claim can be sent back to Turkey.
Read more at the Wall Street Journal.
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