Clampdowns on migration, terrorism challenge idea of 'borderless' Europe

STOCKHOLM -- Since it opened in 2000, the Oresund bridge between Sweden and Denmark has been a towering symbol of European integration and hassle-free travel across borders that people didn't even notice were there.

See Full Article

On Monday new travel restrictions imposed by Sweden to stem a record flow of migrants are transforming the bridge into a striking example of how national boundaries are re-emerging. A year of clampdowns on migration and terrorism has all but killed the idea of a borderless Europe where you could drive or train-hop from Spain in the south to Norway in the north without ever having to show your passport.

"We're turning back the clock," said Andreas Onnerfors, who lives in Lund, on the Swedish side of the bridge. An associate professor in intellectual history, he said he's benefited from the free flow of people and ideas across the bridge -- he's studied on both sides and taught students from both Sweden and Denmark.

"We're going back to a time when the bridge didn't exist," he said, referring to the ID checkpoints being set up Monday on the Danish side for train passengers wishing to cross over to Sweden.

The move is meant to stop undocumented migrants from reaching Sweden, which abruptly reversed its open-door policy after receiving more than 160,000 asylum-seekers last year, mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

It follows the reintroduction of border checks in Germany, Austria, France, Belgium and other countries in what's supposed to be a passport-free travel zone spanning 26 nations.

The moves are supposedly temporary, but are likely to be extended if Europe's migrant crisis continues in 2016.

"It's basically every country for itself now," said Mark Rhinard, an expert on the European Union at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs.

Citing exceptional national circumstances related to security, terrorism and public order, several European countries have suspended EU rules that required them to keep their borders open to each other.

It's a significant development that strikes at the very heart of the EU project -- the free movement of goods and people across borders.

The Bruegel think-tank in Brussels says that in 2014 there were almost 1.7 million cross-border commuters in the passport-free zone known as the Schengen Area, after the Luxembourg town where it was created in 1985. Abolishing it would affect their daily lives, but the consequences for Europe would go deeper, given the "visible and powerful symbol of European integration that Schengen represents," Bruegel researchers Nuria Boot and Guntram Wolff wrote in December.

Whether the temporary reintroduction of borders also means rebuilding mental boundaries between EU citizens remains to be seen. But the migrant crisis is becoming an even bigger challenge to European unity than the cracks emerging in recent years over the bloc's common currency, the euro.

EU nations demonstrated starkly different views on how to deal with the 1 million migrants that crossed the Mediterranean in 2015. Germany and Sweden, until recently, said refugees were welcome, while Hungary built a fence to keep them out. The Danish government took a series of measures to discourage migrants from going there, including a proposal to seize their jewelry to cover their expenses in Denmark.

Common rules requiring refugees to seek shelter in the first EU country they enter collapsed, as Greece and Italy were overwhelmed by sea arrivals and countries further north just waved the migrants through to their intended destination, often Germany or the Scandinavian countries.

Meanwhile the EU's efforts to spread refugees more evenly across the bloc met stiff resistance from member states. By November only about 150 of 160,000 refugees had been relocated from Greece and Italy under an EU plan.

The crisis underlines structural flaws in the EU, showing how it has implemented common rules that it just can't enforce once the external pressures become too great, said Karl Lallerstedt, co-founder of Black Market Watch, a Switzerland-based non-profit group focusing on cross-border smuggling.

"It's not a strong federal state that can overrule its members," he said. "At the same time individual states have obligations to the EU. So you're in this sort of half-way house."

Any hope of a quick return to a borderless Europe was crushed by the deadly Paris attacks in November, after which France declared a state of emergency and beefed up border controls with neighbouring countries.

However, if bottlenecks build up at the borders, EU citizens and companies moving goods in trucks will eventually get fed up, said Rhinard, of the Swedish Institute of International Affairs.

"As soon as it starts to bite economically, people are going to start to ask: 'Is this the right solution to the problem?"' Rhinard said.

That question is already being asked by companies and commuters opposed to new ID checks at the 8-kilometre (5-mile) Oresund bridge-and-tunnel, known to European TV viewers as the focal point of the Swedish-Danish crime series "The Bridge."

Train networks on either side have been integrated to allow thousands of commuters to cross the bridge daily, essentially incorporating the southern Swedish cities of Malmo and Lund into suburban Copenhagen.

But the new ID checks mean there will be no more direct railway service from Copenhagen's main station to Sweden. Travelers heading to Malmo will have to switch trains at Copenhagen Airport after going through the checkpoints there, adding an estimated half an hour to the 40-minute commute.

To avoid the hassle, Sweden's national railway company SJ cancelled service to Denmark altogether, leaving only Danish and regional Swedish operators with service across the bridge.

"This is what happens when national states put down their foot down and say security is most important," said Onnerfors. "It collides with the freedom (of movement) they've been talking about for 20 years, which was the reason we joined the EU to begin with."

Associated Press writers Raf Casert in Brussels, Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin, Ciaran Giles in Madrid, Barry Hatton in Lisbon, George Jahn in Vienna and Collen Barry in Milan contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Trump focuses on first responders after Florida shooting

    World News CTV News
    POMPANO BEACH, Fla. -- U.S. President Donald Trump has made a grim trip to a Florida community reeling from a deadly school shooting, meeting privately with victims and cheering the heroics of first responders. But he extended few public words of consolation to those in deep mourning, nor did Trump address the debate over gun violence that has raged since a 19-year-old gunman killed 17 and injured 14 others. Source
  • 'The pilot called mayday': Tailpipe flames force plane to return to Saskatoon airport

    Canada News CBC News
    A fire on an Air Canada Express plane forced an emergency landing at the Saskatoon airport on Saturday. Teri Udle of Jazz Aviation said in a statement that shortly after takeoff from Saskatoon at about 11:20 a.m. Source
  • Israel slams Polish PM for WWII 'Jewish perpetrators' remark

    World News CTV News
    JERUSALEM -- Israeli politicians accused Poland's prime minister of anti-Semitism Saturday for equating the Polish perpetrators in the Holocaust to its supposed "Jewish perpetrators," setting off a new chapter in an angry dispute over Poland's new bill criminalizing the mention of Polish complicity in the Nazi-led genocide. Source
  • Joe Biden, in public and private, tiptoes toward a 2020 run

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Former U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden is tiptoeing toward a potential run in 2020, even broaching the possibility during a recent gathering of longtime foreign policy aides. Huddled in his newly opened office steps from the U.S. Source
  • Angry students protest gun control after Florida school shooting

    World News CTV News
    PARKLAND, Fla. -- Thousands of angry students, parents and residents demanded stricter gun control laws Saturday as new details were revealed about the suspect accused of shooting and killed 17 people in a Florida high school. Source
  • Vancouver artist's cartoon of Florida school shooting resonates

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- A Vancouver illustrator says she's overwhelmed by the social media response to her cartoon depicting the victim of the recent school shooting in Florida. Pia Guerra's "Hero's Welcome" shows a young girl leading football coach Aaron Feis by the hand to meet a crowd of other people killed in school shootings. Source
  • UKIP leader sacked over fallout from girlfriend's racist Markle texts

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- The troubled U.K. Independence Party ousted its leader Saturday after a scandal over racist text messages sent by his girlfriend, leaving the future of the right-wing party that played a key role in Brexit once more uncertain. Source
  • Adding Indigenous name to controversial PEI site an 'insult': Mi'kmaq leader

    Canada News CTV News
    CHARLOTTETOWN -- A member of the Mi'kmaq Nation traditional government says adding an Indigenous name to a Prince Edward Island historic site that bears the name of a controversial British general is a "grave insult" to his people. Source
  • Manitoba mother speaks out after she was sent video of daughter’s beating

    Canada News CTV News
    Police are investigating an assault on a 10-year-old girl on a Manitoba First Nation after video of the attack was sent to her mother. Amber Hardisty said the video, sent by a friend of her daughter Nevaeh, showed the child being punched, pushed and kicked. Source
  • Public health officials warn of possible measles exposure on Air Canada flight

    Canada News CBC News
    Public health officials west of Toronto say they've confirmed a case of the measles in a baby who returned home on a flight from Switzerland. Peel Public Health says the infant from Brampton, Ont., was on a Feb. Source