Why Schengen Area Will Survive the Refugee Crisis

If Schengen is abandoned, it would mean that the whole idea of free movement of people and goods in Europe is under question.

After hundreds of thousands of refugees flooded Europe in the wake of the civil war in Syria, the European Union faced one of the most severe crises in its history. The inability of some European governments to give an adequate response to the refugee crisis has raised doubts about viability of the Schengen area, one of the core elements of European integration. In an interview with Valdaiclub.com, Professor Piotr Dutkiewicz, Director of the Centre for Governance and Public Management at the Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, shared his view of the Schengen area’s future.

“For the first time since 1995 Schengen zone is facing such a big challenge and challenges will grow,” Dutkiewicz said in a telephone interview. “Spring is coming and a new wave of immigrants will inevitably come to Europe. So, Schengen is already under pressure and the pressure will increase in the next few months. There is agreement about that among experts. But there is no agreement about the consequences of this challenge. Some people in Europe see it as the end of the Schengen zone. There are others who see that this is a temporary adjustment to the rules that were established in 1985 and implemented in 1995. I belong to the second group of people who believe that Schengen is not a formula carved in stone,” he elaborated.

Since 1995, when it was established, Schengen has demonstrated that it can evolve, Dutkiewicz explained. “Its diversity shows that Schengen is a rather flexible model of visa-free zone which can accept deep changes, if necessary,” he added.

“To me, Schengen is one of the core elements of the European Union. I do not see a European Union functioning without a modified Schengen formula,” Dutkiewicz pointed out.

Asked how the Schengen zone could be modified, the scholar said there could be temporary border controls or Schengen could come back to its original formula of the core EU countries and the non-core EU countries. “But it will be a temporary measure, a measure that will not lead to the abandonment of Schengen,” he stressed.

“If Schengen is abandoned, it would mean that the whole idea of free movement of people and goods in Europe is under question. The EU is about three things: free movement of people, free movement of goods and normative base for cooperation among the member-states. Cutting two of them would mean undercutting the EU core idea,” Dutkiewicz pointed out.

Any plan to abandon Schengen would entail a significant economic cost too, he went on to say. “It will mean spending more money to maintain the borders and will also affect the way the EU is conducting its internal trade. According to some estimates, it would cost Europe 100 to 150 billion dollars in the next 6 to10 years, so it translates to about 0.2 percent of the European Union GDP, which is a significant portion of wealth that would be cut from the EU at a difficult economic time. As a result, the EU would become less competitive,” Dutkiewicz said.

Asked if those EU member-states, which are not directly affected by the refugee influx, would be ready to pay for stricter border controls, the scholar said this is what their national interests dictate. “European solidarity is based on well understood European interests,” Dutkiewicz said. “Europeans talk about values, but in fact they calculate every step. Behind every value there is an interest. In this sense, this will be not about solidarity, but about protection of the Schengen zone. And, if necessary, countries which are not directly affected by the immigrant influx would gladly pay for protection of the Schengen area,” he concluded.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.