Open borders in Europe were the most visible feature of European integration. In autumn 2015, due to the refugee crisis many countries began to reintroduce border controls or – even more drastically – build fences. The Schengen Agreement was in danger. Earlier this year, the GED team commissioned a study calculating the economic effects of a departure from the Schengen Agreement which I presented at the Prague European Summit. The video highlights from this summit are now available for you in this blogpost.
In my introductory statement, I quickly summarised the main results concluded in the study and explained the economic costs arising from increased border controls. Losing Schengen would however be much more consequential than these numbers – as high as they already are – indicate. The Schengen Agreement is more than just a symbol; it is a functional prerequisite for the functioning of the Single Market, which would not work without the free movement of goods, labor and capital.
But Europe is not only about economics. This is why I chose to end my introductory remarks with a more general reflection of what the purpose of a border is and which features determine its strength. My case is that the EU is to a large extent a commonly managed policy space and hence the rationale for the protective function of borders inside the EU is not strong.
During the ensuing panel debate, the question arose why the Schengen Agreement was actually in danger. How did the coordination failure leading to the rise of border security measures come about? My argument is twofold: First, the coordination failure in migration policy had been going on for many years, Dublin never was a functional system. Secondly, the financial crisis has eroded the feeling of solidarity necessary to overcome coordination failures, which is why EU states have found it so hard to act together.
Should we be afraid of migration? Is the migration wave Europe has experienced so far placing too much of a burden on social security systems and the integrative capacity of society? My answer to these questions is that, on the contrary, the migration we have had so far might actual prove to be an opportunity if properly managed.