The imaginary happiness of the Schengen area

The imaginary happiness of the Schengen area

After twelve years of intense negotiations, in particular due to Austria's veto within the Council of the European Union, Bulgaria and Romania joined the Schengen Area after a decision of 30 December 2023. But this integration is only partial, in the sense that only sea and air routes are free of access. . Therefore we can ask ourselves why access to the lands is not allowed? This decision is due to Austria, which considers the fight against illegal immigration in the two countries to be very lenient.

Utopia achieved: a symbol of European unity

The Schengen Area is an area of ​​free movement, especially of people. This principle, enshrined in Article III of the Treaty on European Union, means that any individual (citizen of an EU Member State or a third State), once entering the territory of one Member State, can cross the borders of other States, without being controlled (vie -publique.com).

A space enclosed from the inside as well as from the outside

This space has never been questioned dating back to 1995. It will experience its first major crisis as of 2015, due to the migration crises affecting the Old Continent. Many right-wing governments of this era were alarmed by the easy access of migrants from the Mediterranean to European countries, such as Nicolas Sarkozy or Silvio Berlusconi (former Italian Prime Minister) who stressed that it was “about improving the Schengen area, making it more adaptable.” to the demands of citizens.

Migration crises have allowed some Member States to justify the re-imposition of internal border controls, particularly for reasons of public order and public security. The countries are: Hungary, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Poland and France. Member states were the first to reimpose controls, implicitly forcing European institutions to respond.

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The inability of European institutions to respond appropriately

We can already observe that European institutions want to strengthen the management of external borders for special reasons related to the exploitation of migrants for political purposes, without questioning Article III of the Treaty on European Union. The phenomenon of third-country exploitation encourages or facilitates the movement of third-country nationals towards the external borders of the European Union in order to destabilize Member States.

The great complexity lies in controlling the internal borders of member states, which poses a great danger that may question this area of ​​freedom of movement. In fact, European Union law sets clear rules regarding internal border controls; However, some countries have violated these rules and found themselves in an illegal situation under EU law. However, in its rulings of November 21, 2017 and October 16, 2019, the French Council of State approved surveillance within the borders of the French Republic. However, no conviction was issued against the French state. But the Court of Justice of the European Union finally woke up with a ruling issued on April 26, 2023, and found Austria guilty by asserting that controls within internal borders for more than six months were illegal. It is unfortunate that member states, due to their inability to implement binding measures, continue to do what they want without bothering about EU law, despite Austria's condemnation.

Does the European Union aim to defend the Schengen Area?

The European Union sets strict rules regarding internal border controls. It can be put into effect immediately by informing Member States and European institutions. For anticipated threats, the term is a maximum of six months, with renewable periods of a maximum of six months within a two-year period. The European Council and the Court of Justice of the European Union are keen to develop alternative measures to guarantee the zone of free movement, in particular such as a common policy with more significant control over external borders.

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A press release from the Council of the European Union (currently under the Belgian presidency) dated February 2024 presents an interim agreement between the Council of the European Union and negotiators from the European Parliament. This agreement has not yet been adopted, but it will amend EU law that defines the operating rules of the Schengen Area. We can therefore highlight the lack of coherence between the institutions represented by the Member States, the European Council and the Court of Justice of the European Union. But we need to focus our attention on what is essential: that this lack of coherence allows member states the ability to implement whatever immigration policy they wish, which could legitimately be judged to be immoral.

Arbitrary control over the citizens' own accounts

Pope Francis did not wait to respond to the situation: “Two words were repeated that fueled people’s fear: ‘invasion’ and ‘emergency’, but those who risk their lives at sea do not invade, they seek hospitality.” The management of this crisis by member states could be considered unethical given the conditions of reception and the desire to withdraw. As Warsan Shire, the famous Somali poet, said: “No one puts his children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.” It is legitimate to ask whether closing ourselves in could lead to more serious consequences than this migration crisis.

It is impossible to clear checks only for a certain group of residents who have crossed the Mediterranean: EU citizens are also affected by this situation. Several testimonies from citizens have surfaced claiming that they received fines for not being able to present a passport at certain borders. But we should not forget that these consequences are simply unacceptable and illegal, and would likely be subject to referral to the Court of Justice of the European Union. Unfortunately, this information is not known to the general public.

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There are two paths ahead: should we impose more controls at the expense of the right to freedom of movement of European citizens, or impose fewer restrictions while allowing the EU to put in place the measures? We always find the same topic: the sovereignty of Member States. For fear of losing this sovereignty, member states violate EU law in order to protect themselves. Isn't the only solution to allow the European Union to develop a common policy among the 27 countries so that it can meet this challenge morally and legally, while ensuring the long-term existence of this noble space? It will just be a matter of contemplating it.

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