The 25th anniversary of the open-border Schengen agreement is set to take place this year as most European Union member states have closed their borders due to the Wuhan coronavirus.
The Schengen open borders agreement was signed by Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Spain, and Portugal on the 26th of March, 1995, and was long touted as a success of the European Union. But few are celebrating open borders, as coronavirus spreads throughout Europe, as Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung notes in their coverage of the virus in central Europe.
The agreement expanded to more countries after 1995, including Greece in 2000 and Denmark, Sweden, and Finland in 2001. The agreement now encompasses 26 countries, some of which, such as Switzerland and Iceland, are not members of the European Union.
The Wuhan coronavirus pandemic is not the first time the Schengen agreement has seen major challenges.
EU Dismisses Coronavirus Threat, Refuses to Consider Border Control As Virus Spreads Across Europe https://t.co/izKTHgrtm9
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) February 26, 2020
In 2015 during the height of the migrant crisis and the 20th anniversary year of Schengen, many countries imposed border checks such as Denmark, which continued to impose strict border policies, citing dangers from Swedish gang crime and terror threats as recently as last year.
Since the arrival of coronavirus in Italy and then in other European Union countries like Germany, France, Spain, and Austria, 15 Schengen members have introduced strict border controls to help stop the spread of the virus.
According to the website Schengenvisainfo, an independent website for information on Schengen zone visas, Belgium, Iceland, Sweden, Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg are the only Schengen members not to have closed their borders so far.
EU President Calls for Borders to Remain Open During Coronavirus Outbreak https://t.co/l8nhtj8TNs
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 16, 2020
Several of the countries that have closed their borders have also failed to inform the European Commission of their move to secure their borders, a move that is contrary to the Schengen Border Code.
The European Commission itself stated in late February that it was not considering the suspension of Schengen when Italy led infections with 322 confirmed cases.
Figures released Monday revealed Italy to now have nearly 64,000 cases and 6,077 deaths, nearly double the number of fatal cases reported by China where the outbreak began.