European future is at risk if the Schengen area is weakened.
While French President Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi, after a bilateral meeting in Rome, asked the European Union to reintroduce national passport controls, as a way to respond to the influx of migrants fleeing revolutionary Northern Africa, the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee ruled that Romania and Bulgaria are ready to join the border-free Schengen Area.
The Schengen system, which was introduced in 1995, abolishes frontier checks between 22 EU countries plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, and is viewed as one of the more tangible benefits of the EU.
Along with the single currency, the free-borders area embodies the most visible aspect of sharing state sovereignty, transforming the EU into a true community, not just a common market.
And this is not just a symbolism for those who share its benefits and are able to move freely within the area, but also for people outside the Union, as the absence of any internal controls it has hardened and given greater significance to the line between “integrated Europe” and the rest of the world.
Now, this “integrated Europe” can decide if she wants to be a space open to further integration spreading its value and its practices far behind her own common borders, or instead just a fortress, able only to better defend her own nationalisms and fears.
The discussion about Schengen and the opposite messages arriving from the national states and the European Parliament call into question the future of the Union itself and show that the process of integration pursued so far can still be at risk.