Is this the end of Schengen? Germany, Austria and Finland want to restore border controls

Germany, Austria and Finland are considering the unilateral restoration of border controls for passengers and vectors coming from Greece. In statements made by the Austrian and German Interior Ministers at the meeting of the Council of Interior Ministers of 8 March 2012, the two ministers expressed their concerns about Greece’s inability to effectively control flows of illegal immigrants at its land borders with Turkey. In a written question to the EU Commission, the Greek MEP Georgios Papanikolaou asked for the EC Commission’s view. Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs responds (E-002940/2012):

The Commission shares the concerns about the flow of irregular migrants into Greece, in particular through the external border withTurkey and has put in place a comprehensive strategy to tackle this problem, elements of which are of an operational nature involving the FRONTEX agency […]  At the same time, the Commission continues to encourage the Turkish authorities to sign the readmission agreement it has negotiated with the European Union, fully implementing its existing readmission obligations to better prevent irregular migration generally and to cooperate with EUROPOL and FRONTEX in this endeavour.

 As regards the possible reintroduction of internal border controls between Member States inside the Schengen area, the Commission […] recalls that this is only possible – as an exceptional and temporary measure by a Member State – when it is considered necessary on account of a serious threat to public policy or internal security.

A missed opportunity: the EU’s response to the Arab Spring

In 2011, the EU missed a historic opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to the foundations it is built on. It is as if we’d said to them “It is wonderful that you make a revolution and want to embrace democracy but, by all means, stay where you are because we have an economic crisis to deal with here” (Cecilia Malmstrom, EU Home Affairs Commissioner)

The quote comes from a lecture EU Commissioner Malstrom gave today at the Center for European Studies on the EU’s and EU member states’ responses to the Arab Spring, addressing in particular the challanges of building a EU migration and asylum policy. To read the full text of the lecture is available here. The words of the Commissioner echoe some of the concerns I had pointed to in a recent blog post. I am currently working with Hein de Haas to a joint commentary piece to be published on the forthcoming issue of Forced Migration Review on  North Africa and Displacement 2011-2012 in which we further develop our understanding of the complex relationship between human mobility, forced displacement and political uprisings in the MENA region.