Is Schengen Agreement Nearing its End?

Is Schengen Agreement Nearing its End?

Europe is stunned. Germany, that has always been a locomotive of European integration, does not rule out suspending participation in the agreement allowing passport-free travel between most European states. 

Thomas de Maiziere, Germany's Interior Minister, told the BBC he supports the Schengen Agreement which is «in danger» because nobody sticks to the law. He also called on Britain to accept more migrants. «Of course Britain has a special role - it is not part of Schengen», de Maiziere said. «But all EU countries must become more aware of their responsibilities». 

The Schengen area is made up of 26 European countries, mostly in the EU, which have abolished border controls and established common rules on asylum. The border agency Frontex has said some 340,000 migrants from Africa and the Middle East arrived in the EU this year alone. They mainly come to Greece and Italy – the countries that have stated many times they cannot handle the problem alone.

Most of the migrants crossing the Mediterranean arrive in Greece and Italy first. Their governments say they cannot cope with the numbers. Under Schengen, many migrants then head north, hoping for asylum elsewhere in the EU. The officials in Brussels say this is the worst refugee crisis since WWII.

Germany considers the possibility of introducing border controls to reduce the number of migrants coming to the country. Besides, Berlin is preparing amendments to the Schengen Agreement. The German Minister says he supports free movement but new solutions are needed because other states don’t adhere to the law and the principles enshrined in the Dublin System are not observed. The Dublin accords proclaim the principle that responsibility for processing claims lies with the country that played the biggest part in the applicant's entry to the EU. Often that is the first EU country that the migrant reached.

No doubt, de Maiziere meant London. The United Kingdom always tries to stay away from tackling common problems of Europe when it is not in line with its own interests. It does not make life easier for Berlin which has to consider the possibility of taking measures against the background of growing numbers of immigrants provoking negative reaction of German people. Germany expects to receive 800,000 asylum applications this year alone, far more than other EU states.

The country is attractive for migrants who receive pocket money (a family of 5-6 people get 1000 euros monthly). They are also provided with decent housing and full medical care. The refugee flows are huge, it takes 18 months to examine applications for asylum. Even in case of refusal one can live comfortably a year and a half at the expense of German taxpayers.

It’s a heavy burden indeed. According to Deutsche Welle, German constituent federal states and districts face an abrupt increase in expenses to accommodate mass flows of refugees. According to the federal government estimates, the financial burden may go up by 6 billion euros a year in the near future.

Gerd Landsberg, the managing director of theGerman Association of Towns and Municipalities, said the expenditure is to grow substantially. According to him, towns and municipalities have to urgently work out a housing program that may require at least two billion euros.

This is an immense sum. For comparison, in 2014 the overall expenditure, including the money spent by constituent states and districts for accommodation of immigrants, was equal to 2, 2 billion euros. The issue came to the fore as the refugee flows kept on growing. Many municipalities responsible for taking care of immigrants said they lacked funds. Right-wing extremists attack the refugees’ asylums. The German Interior Ministry registered 173 instances of criminal right-wing offenses against accommodations for asylum-seekers during the first six months of this year, almost three times as many as during the same period the previous year. A total of 150 arson or other attacks have been recorded in the first six months of 2015, damaging or destroying newly renovated shelters for asylum-seekers expected to reach Germany. Here is the recent example. On the August 22 Saturday night, police had to use force to dispel an anti-refugee demonstration in Heidenau, Saxony. The protesters blocked the road to a former trade center converted into a refugee asylum, according to Focus online.

The protest was staged by the far right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD). Police officers were hurt in scuffles with about 600 protesters, many hurling bottles, stones and firecrackers. Tear gas was used to restore order. In the end the way was cleared to allow buses with refugees approach the building destined to accommodate 250 - 600 people. The asylum will be constantly guarded by police.

Until now only ultra-right have hit the streets. It does not mean other Germans are satisfied with the state of things. The ruling coalition’s policy on refugees will be an issue at the 2017 parliamentary election. It’ll be an acid test for Chancellor Angela Merkel ready to run for the fourth consecutive term. Voices are raised calling for review of the Schengen Agreement or even its abrogation. It will undermine the fundamental principles of the European Union. Suppose, first restrictions will apply to the refuges from Eritrea or Somalia. Then they will spread on European immigrants, especially the ones coming from the Balkans. Armed gangs of Albanians and Kosovars on the streets of capital do not make Berliners happy. 

Discussing the need to review the immigration laws, Berlin keeps mum about what caused the unparalleled flows of refugees. It should be remembered that during the wars for Yugoslavia’s «succession» the German military was used for the first time outside national boundaries since the end of the Second World War. 

Talking about the refugees from Syria and Libya, it springs to mind that Berlin supported the US-launched wars in these countries. It is well known that Bundeswehr helped Americans to «appease» Afghanistan. One way or another, Berlin reaps what it has sown by obediently dancing to the Washington’s tune. The United States views the problems of refugees faced by Germany and other member states of the European Union as an element of big geopolitical game. 

Making Germany and the European Union weaker by and large meets the long-term goal – to subjugate Europe and prevent its rapprochement with the thriving Greater Eurasia.