On the 14th of June, the EU celebrated Schengen treaty’s 30 anniversary.
Originally signed in the 1985 by Germany, France and Benelux countries, today the Schengen agreement covers all the EU Member States, except the UK, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia, as well as the Schengen associated countries Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Considered the greatest achievements of the EU’s integration, the treaty marked the start of the process that abolished internal borders among EU members States and allowed free movement within the so-called Schengen area. Moreover, the Schengen agreement strengthened European external borders, creating common rules and granting cooperation between Members’ States judicial authorities.
Unfortunately, today the name of Schenghen, symbol of open borders in the EU, also coincides with the recent developments in the Mediterranean and the adoption of the European Agenda on Migration, which came as results of the tragedies involving migrants coming from security challenged countries.
Indeed, the “bad” application of the Treaty has been perceived more and more as strictly linked to the immigration problem. Thus, the escalation of the crisis of immigrants arriving in Italy, and the reluctance of the Member States to share the burden, raised attention on its application and the opportunity to review it.
In this context, the standoff of hundreds of African asylum-seekers threatening a hunger strike if they are not admitted to French territory, has opened a new crisis to the France-Italy borders. Indeed, while the Italian President Renzi is asking Europe to do not underestimate the crisis, Austria and France are expelling asylum seekers back on the Italian soil, arguing that, according to the Dublin II Regulation, the country that a person first arrived in is responsible for examining asylum applications.
Facing this situation, the President Juncker has expressed concerns on taking advantage of the surge of immigrants from the Mediterranean to dismantle the Schengen agreement, which represents the European efforts to build trust between its Members States and, hence, it should be considered as an irreversible achievement of the European Union.
Today, the EU Interior Ministers have discussed Commission’s proposal to redistribute migrants coming from Italy and Greece, in order to negotiate an agreement, but they have only reached a compromise on binding quotas.
Surely, the Conference’s outcome cannot be considered a significant result to address migration’s challenge, but, hopefully, it could represent a first step to build, on the short term, a European solidarity and to reinforce the Schengen cooperation.