UK BorderBBC News Online has a good piece about the implications for tourism of the enlargement of the Schengen border free area in Europe, only one thing is missing: any discussion about Britain eventually joining the parts of Schengen that are actually useful to citizens. Essentially there are 3 elements of Schengen: no border checks at EU internal borders, a unified visa system, and a computer information database (the Schengen Information System – SIS) used to exchange data on border security and law enforcement. The UK does not participate in the first two, but does participate in the SIS, so Brits get all the oppressive bits but none of the useful liberal parts.

Now it is quite tedious to queue up at the ‘UK Border’ in Heathrow or Stansted, but it’s possible to live with it I suppose – the worst aspect is the chronic inefficiency of the checks and the long queues. The really silly thing is the visa issue. If you are South African and resident in the UK – for work, studying etc.- and have the correct visa, you have to apply (and pay about £40) for a Schengen visa every time you want to visit France or Germany. If you’re South African resident in France you can of course visit Germany without any problem at all.

In the meantime the UK is wanting to tighten its visa procedures still further, despite not really knowing how many non-EU citizens there are in the country anyway. It’s even managed to annoy John Purvis, a Tory MEP – and Tories in the EP are never well known for a pro-EU approach.

[UPDATE – 21.12.2007]
Fico & Gusenbauer The borders are open today, and waves of criminals are already forcing their way westwards. That’s if you believe the British newspapers. See these articles from The Telegraph and The Guardian, and this scaremongering last month in the Daily Mail. We should be celebrating this removal of the borders. OK, it’s not quite the same as the ending of the iron curtain, but it’s important and symbolic. I was joyous when I watched Fico and Gusenbauer sawing through a border barrier on Euronews yesterday. You might argue that it is disingenuous of the Austrians who, after all, still impose restrictions on Slovaks working in Austria, but hey, they can at least cross the border easily.


  1. Oh what 3 years can make to change the perception about Shengen. You wrote this article in 2007, well before the financial crisis in 2008. The world has changed since then and the perception about Shengen’s benefits is in crisis.
    The Dutch already imposed customs experts to protect its borders. France did it as well to prevent Libyans entering its borders from Italy.
    I am glad Britain and Ireland opted out of the Shengen, especially now that more and more from countries affected by the financial crisis are migrating to well-off countries in northern europe. And there has been a revival of patriotism among EU countries, seeking to preserve their national identity and sovereignty from Brussels.
    So, welcome to 2011!

  2. russell yates

    It may be an idea to set up a petition, why not

    dont let the Eurosceptics have all the media attention – maybe its time we started to fight back


  3. Jon, you posted an update on scare-mongering and you have repeatedly thought about Britain’s place in the European Union.

    It may be of interest to you that I wrote a fairly long piece on Britain as ever more of an outsider on my Swedish blog.

  4. Jon, you are right. Free travel (free movement) is one of the advantages for European citizens.

    But the core areas of European integration (and aspiration for new member states) have political implications, too.

    When Valéry Giscard d’Estaing mentioned his criteria for the important choice of new President for the European Council, he wrote on his blog that this person should come from a country which is part of the Eurozone and the Schengen area and applies the EU Charter of fundamental rights.

    Looking beyond that, we could and we should add defence.

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