30 Years of Schengen: Internal Blessing, External Curse?

Written by | Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

Esther Ademmer et al. (The Kiel Institute for the World Economy)

Internally, the Schengen, so to speak, blessed its Member States by opening their internal borders. As such, social and economic interactions have been internally facilitated without restricting the security of EU citizens. Externally, the EU has become a visionary supporting liberal values and legal migration outside its borders. The current security situation in the EU on its external borders, however, demonstrates that the Schengen area is still imperfect and cannot fully protect its Member States on the external level.
When it comes to legal migration, the community follows the motto that travel broadens one’s horizons. Therefore, the EU supports reforms in the neighboring or candidate countries, namely by streamlining the visa process. Temporary migrants moreover identify themselves with EU’s democratic values much more than their peers inside the EU. In the respective countries of their origin, they can then support and spread these values and thus ultimately increase the voters’ inclination to elect pro-democratic and pro-European political parties. The Schengen borders should thus remain sufficiently permeable, though only to the extent, which does not jeopardize its security.
However, problems are emerging with illegal migration that are a result of the EU‘s outdated asylum policy, which has become defunct over the last three decades and which imposes an unequal burden on its members. Since individual member countries do not have internal borders, it is necessary to create a unified asylum system with the aim to introduce common rules for dealing with illegal migrants, their repatriation or integration. A common asylum system should equally distribute the asylum applications to relax the pressure exerted on the Member States situated on the EU’s southern external borders. Migrants from the war-torn countries should be accepted based on the proof of persecution in their homeland. Subsequent integration of migrants should take place in the countries with favorable work conditions. Last but not the least, the EU should, however, also focus primarily on the cooperation with third countries, from which the migrants hail, in order to prevent illegal migration in the first place.

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