World View: European Union’s Schengen Agreement for Borderless Travel Unravels

The Associated Press
Sven Hoppe/dpa via AP

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Hungary slams closed the door to thousands of new migrants
  • European Union’s Schengen agreement for borderless travel unravels
  • Egypt mistakenly kills Mexican tourists, Mexico demands explanation

Hungary slams closed the door to thousands of new migrants

Migrants find a new way to enter Hungary from Serbia, after police sealed the border on Monday (Reuters)
Migrants find a new way to enter Hungary from Serbia, after police sealed the border on Monday (Reuters)

On June 17, Hungary announced that it would build a steel border fence along the Serbian border to keep migrants from entering Hungary. Hungarians have been rushing to build the fence, but for the last two weeks, a small gap in the fence, about 40 m (130 ft) long became the unofficial entry point for thousands of migrants and refugees heading north into the European Union. Migrants were rushing to make it across before the gap was closed — 4,330 on Saturday, 5,809 on Sunday.

So on Monday, all of a sudden, with no warning, a line of police blocked the gap in the fence, while workers threaded barbed wire across it.

There was confusion among the hundreds of migrants who had been waiting to cross the border. Then they were told that there was an open border crossing a mile or two away. They lined up there, as police were letting people through by ones and twos. By Monday evening, around 1,000 migrants were lined up, with some expressing their anger at the slow movement.

Hungary is taking other steps as well to reduce the flow of migrants. With the closing of the border fence, new laws will permit police to arrest and even jail any migrant that illegal crosses the fence, which may be a violation of international law. AFP and AP

European Union’s Schengen agreement for borderless travel unravels

A core founding principle of the European Union appeared to be unraveling on Monday, as one country after another reestablished border controls, and a contentious meeting in Brussels failed reach agreement even on the most watered-down proposal for dealing with migrants.

Hungary’s president, Viktor Orbán, has been treated for months as the “bad boy” on migrant issues in Europe, and the plans to build the border fence with Serbia have been heavily condemned from the day they were announced. But the completion of the border fence has been expected for months, and so Hungary’s fence was not the event that triggered Monday’s events.

The major triggering event was Germany’s surprise decision to restore border controls. For weeks, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has been repeatedly hailed across Europe by human rights activists for her strong stand on giving refugees from Syria and other countries a warm welcome when they arrive in Germany.

But reality began to set in on Sunday. Although all of Germany was supposed to offer the migrants a warm welcome, in practice most of them arrived in Munich in southern Germany. When 13,000 migrants arrived in Munich on Saturday alone, a police spokesman announced that “We have reached the upper limit of our capacity.” The authorities are considering using a sports venue from the 1972 Olympics, the Olympiahalle, as a temporary shelter.

Germany has already said that it expects to receive 800,000 migrants this year alone, but some news reports have indicated that unless the war in Syria ends, there could be millions of migrants in the next two years.

Germany’s vice-chancellor Thomas de Maizière announced that there would be “temporary” border controls imposed on its border with Austria. De Maizière said that refugees could “not choose” their host countries and called on other EU states to do more. He said, “The aim of these measures is to limit the current inflows to Germany and to return to orderly procedures when people enter the country.”

EU’s Schengen Agreement permits free movement and visa-free travel across borders of all 26 countries that signed the agreement. This meant that once a migrant reached Hungary, he could freely travel from there to Austria, and then Germany. But this huge volume of migrants, the highest since the end of World War II, was not contemplated by the Schengen Agreement.

Germany’s announcement on Monday technically does not violate the Schengen Agreement because the border controls are only “temporary.” However, most people assume that the border controls will continue as long as the flood of migrants continues.

Germany’s surprise announcement to impose border controls started a domino effect. Austria and Slovakia said it would impose its own border controls. The Netherlands announced it would make spot checks at its borders. Sweden and Poland said they were considering border controls.

In the meantime, EU interior ministers were meeting in Brussels to decide how to handle the migrant problem. The issue under discussion was a process for distributing some of the migrants to different countries on a voluntary quota basis. However, several east European countries refused to agree to accept any migrants at all.

The fear is now growing that with all the border closings, hundreds of thousands of migrants may be stuck in transit at the border crossings, creating an extremely unstable situation.

This is potentially the greatest threat to Europe since the end of World War II. In the 1950s, Europe had been devastated by two world wars. Everybody was fearful that there could be another world war at any time. Finally, it was agreed by the war survivors that Europe had to form a union like the United States to prevent another war. That was the powerful motivation behind the 1957 Treaty of Rome. (See “Angela Merkel tries to unify a fractured Europe on its 50th birthday” from 2007.)

The text of the final declaration of the 1957 treaty states: “European unification shows that we have learnt the painful lessons of a history marked by bloody conflict.”

But the whole point of Generational Dynamics is that the painful lessons of history must be learned generation by generation. One generation may learn a lesson, but their children and grandchildren will ignore those lessons, and even be contemptuous of them. Today, with the survivors of World War II almost gone, we see the lessons learned in World War II being forgotten, and we see European unification unraveling. BBC and Reuters and NY Times

Egypt mistakenly kills Mexican tourists, Mexico demands explanation

Mexico is demanding a full investigation and explanation after Egyptian warplanes attacked a group of Mexican tourists in Egypt’s Western Desert. Egyptian security forces killed 12 people and injured 10 more.

According to the Egyptians, the tourists were in cars not authorized for tours, and the group did not have permits for the trip.

According to a representative of the tour guides: “The tour company is licensed. They had the tourism police notification. The police representative inspected all car licenses before leaving the hotel in Cairo in the morning and heading towards the oases.”

However, the attack occurred when the group took a 2 km detour off the authorized paved road, in order to get something to eat. According to the representative, “There were no warning signs and no instructions from the checkpoints on the road or the tourism policeman accompanying them.”

Egypt’s ambassador to Mexico, Yasser Shaban, said that the Egyptian government was taking the incident seriously, and working around the clock to provide support and assistance to the victims and their families.

Egypt’s Western Desert is popular with tourists because of its spectacular landscapes. But it’s adjacent to Libya, and so it’s also popular with insurgents transporting weapons, drugs and militants between Libya and Egypt. Al Ahram (Cairo) and CNN

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Hungary, Viktor Orbán, Serbia, European Union, Schengen Agreement, Germany, Angela Merkel, Thomas de Maizière, Austria, Slovakia, Netherlands, Treaty of Rome, Egypt, Western Desert, Mexico, Yasser Shaban, Libya
Permanent web link to this article
Receive daily World View columns by e-mail


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.