EU Sets Deadline for Border Patrol Plan
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All eyes have been on Europe as people look to see if the border-free travel guaranteed by the Schengen Agreement can survive the security fears and migrant crisis that have affected the EU this year. In an effort to keep Schengen in place, Brussels is considering the idea of doing more to secure the bloc’s outermost borders.
On Thursday, the EU announced that it had put a deadline in place to make a decision about forming and deploying a border guard force that could better secure the land and sea entries into the EU.
A controversial plan to secure the borders
The move would be welcomed in some countries, including Sweden and Germany, which are the desired destinations of most of the migrants who have made their way to Europe this year. Hungary and Croatia, meanwhile, see the idea of an external force patrolling their border as a challenge to their sovereignty. While Greece and Italy have been overwhelmed by migrants, they are still on the fence about the border patrol idea as well.
By some estimates almost three-quarters of the million refugees who entered Europe this year passed through Greece. Greece has been under pressure to control its borders, but has been largely unable to do so. It is still struggling with crippling debts and other problems.
Passport-free travel is at stake
European Council President Donald Tusk has stated that Schengen’s future is very much in doubt if the plan does not go through by the June deadline. "Europe cannot remain vulnerable when Schengen states are not able to effectively protect their borders.”
The plan would call for the creation of a standing force that would be specifically recruited and trained for the mission. This would mean that one country would not have to send military or police personnel into another country. For example, German troops would not be sent into Hungary to help secure its border. The border patrol would be under the EU flag. At the same time, however, the acceptance of the plan would mean that Brussels could decide to deploy a patrol to a country without first seeking that country’s approval.
The Schengen Agreement is already in doubt. Denmark has set up checkpoints on its border with Germany. Sweden, meanwhile, has security personnel on its border with Denmark, and there have been reports of people without EU identification not being allowed to cross.
Despite the potential objections from border states who don’t want an outside force in their country, the EU has already earmarked approximately 238 million euros to fund the border project on an annual basis.
Tourism would benefit if Schengen remains in place
Schengen is important for travel-related industries. The border-free setup within the European Union has been a boon for both leisure tourism and business travel. People in the hospitality and tourism industries should, for the most part, welcome any plan that seeks to keep passport-free travel within the EU in place.
Critics say that the plan to delay the border patrol decision until June 30, 2016 is just a move to sidestep what is sure to be a heated debate between countries whose highest priority is sovereignty and countries whose main goal is security. At least Brussels appears to realize that something must be done if Schengen is to remain in place.
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