The free movement of people and goods is a fundamental idea of the European Union, and one that’s driven tremendous economic benefit to the region (not to mention the individual benefit from unburdening travel). It’s embodied in the Schengen Agreement and in other agreements.
The Schengen Area consists of 26 countries that abolished border controls with each other, effectively becoming a single country for travel. Ireland and the UK have opted out, but the area otherwise includes the vast majority of Europe. Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland which are not part of the European Union are signatories to the Schengen Agreement.
When you enter a European country you go through passport control. If you connect at an airport to elsewhere in Europe you’re generally taking what amounts to a domestic flight. Travel within Europe, for the 400 million people inside the Schengen Area, is like travel inside the U.S.
In what could wind up being one of the most important stories in a long time, Sweden imposed border controls with Denmark and Denmark with Germany.
Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone is facing the biggest test of its two-decade existence after Sweden re-imposed controls on visitors crossing from Denmark across what had been one of most open borders in the world.
Hours after the measures came into effect, Denmark announced it would slap new controls on its own border with Germany, while Berlin warned that the 26-nation zone of passport-free travel was now “in danger”.
In all, Austria, Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark and Norway have reintroduced border checks. Whither Schengen?
Source: UK Independent
When Germany imposed controls at its border with Austria in September, I believe they formally invoked a six month exemption allowable under ‘exceptional circumstances’ by the Schengen treaty. The agreement also allows for exemptions for “public policy or internal security.” So it’s not a violation as such. However if the tendency to impose border controls spreads, such that it’s the new normal, Schengen is undermined.
The Danish government imposed customs controls in 2011… and the government that did so was voted out of office. The move had been criticized by Germany, but now Germany is itself imposing some controls at its borders.
Historically Malta introduced border checks for the Pope’s visit and Estonia for President Obama’s visit. But those were temporary, and they’re rare.
Now, not so rare it seems.