Schengen monument

As I argued in my previous post, the British media is getting into a bit of a lather about the enlargement of the Schengen border free zone. Can the media not get to grips with the benefits of something, instead carrying on about how ‘illegal migration will increase’?

But let’s look at that a little more. Head of the Frontex border agency, Ilkka Laitinen, has stated that “we are going to lose a very effective instrument to fight illegal immigration” (BBC News, EU Business) but what he goes on to say is that the concern is actually about the EU’s eastern border, towards Ukraine, Belarus etc. – so essentially that the borders of fortress Europe are not strong enough, and that internal borders have helped make up for those deficiencies until now.

So then, we fear the fortress is not strong enough? Oh no we don’t! What is the first ‘Reader Comment’ on Schengen at the BBC website: that Schengen is too much of a fortress and it will be harder for the Brit resident in Saudi Arabia who has a Burmese wife to get a visa to mainland Europe now to visit relatives in Slovakia! So the fortress is both too strong and too weak at the same time.

Quite frankly I do not give a damn about the Burmese wife of a Brit in Saudi Arabia. What I do care about is the Slovene resident in Piran who can travel to shop in Trieste, or the Austrian citizen who can easily get to Bratislava. Development of border regions such as Malmö-Copenhagen, Haparanda, Strasbourg etc. has shown how removal of borders can facilitate trade and boost a region’s economy. Plus when the Burmese person gets their Schengen visa, they too can move across Europe without needing a series of different visas.

Last but not least, even the Swiss are due to join Schengen in 2008, and if any country is paranoid about migration it’s the Swiss – black sheep posters and all.

[UPDATE – 22.12.2007]
On a completely different issue – rights to health treatment in different European countries – the Economist’s Certain Ideas of Europe blog has a similar tale of eurosceptics wanting to have their cake and eat it. I disagree with the take in working time, but beyond that the analysis is impeccable. I also detect a certain edge to the Economist’s blogging; it’s harder and more direct than the publication. Here are the journalists really stating what they see, without the rather smug language that sometimes masks the facts in the printed magazine.

[UPDATE – 30.12.2007]
Slugger O’Toole has an interesting entry on the debate going on in Ireland about Schengen. Could Northern Ireland and the Republic both join Schengen, and England, Wales and Scotland stay out?


  1. The Schengen Zone is a black and white solution for a grey world. By removing the need to carry passports it has introduced a new Berlin Wall along the borders of Belarus and Ukraine. Just as we in the west resented the old Berlin Wall, the Schengen wall is an object of much resentment east of its borders. Naive comments like, “well they just have to get visa’s” take no account of the real world, just witness the decline in Russian holiday makers going to Croatia compared to the increase in numbers going to Turkey.

    Division breads resentment, misinformation and worse. I would rather carry a passport around than risk a new cold war.

  2. Shaney

    there you are 😉

    Its just that im a bit sick of people putting Ireland/Northern Ireland in the same bag as England/UK – for instance, Northern Ireland did want to join the Eurozone (apart from Paisley who dont want the Pope’s head in his pocket!!!).

    its a cut and paste – no time to edit and all that.

    Do have a good new year eve in Sweden (thats where you will be, no?) – keep up with the blog – i enjoy reading it 😉

  3. Woooaaaahhh! Easy, easy. You don’t need to convince me of those things… As far as I am concerned I want both the UK and the Republic of Ireland to be full members of Schengen, visas included. I was stating the arguments often put forward in the British debate about this, that’s all.

  4. Shane Gilchrist O hEorpa


    “…I have given a list to show Ireland’s possible reasons why it is not a part of the Schengen Zone. Possible solutions are given for every possible reason.

    Ireland’s Reason 1:

    Ireland has a “Common Travel Area” with the United Kingdom

    Possible Solution:

    To quote the Irish Government’s own words

    “There is no formal agreement between Ireland and UK regarding the common travel area and it is not provided for in legislation”


    Unlike the Schengen Zone, The Common Travel Area is only a common travel area for British and Irish Nationals and not for residents with Non-EU nationality living in both countries.

    A Non-EU national living in Ireland would require both a multiple entry Irish visa and a British Visa if she/he were travelling to Northern Ireland and back. So the borders are closed to residents with Non-EU nationalities, anyway.

    Link:$File/ReEntryVisaFeb06.pdf (Page 1)

    Britain does not recognise Irish Work Visas for transiting purposes. British Embassy, Dublin advises travellers transiting in Britain to Ireland to get a British Visiting Visa.

    So the countries in the Common Travel Area do not recognise each other’s visas.

    I believe Ireland is not a part of United Kingdom anymore, it is a republic state.

    It follows European Union rules and has even the Euro currency.

    The decision to join the Schengen Visa Zone could be taken by a Republic Nation and I hope Ireland does not quote the Common Travel Area as a reason, which does not exist in a formal agreement.

    Reason 2:

    Ireland has the sea as a natural frontier.

    Possible Solution:

    Iceland also has the sea as a natural frontier; it is a part of the Schengen Visa Zone.

    Reason 3:

    By joining the Schengen Zone Ireland may have radical civil liberties implications because of the need to introduce Identity cards and “Stop and Search”

    by the police, limited by the habeas corpus.

    Possible Solution:

    The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in Ireland is planning to introduce Identity Cards for Non-EU Foreign Nationals resident in Ireland.

    (25 Aug’06 Irish Independent Newspaper, later confirmed by The Department of Justice; Link: )

    If Non-EU nationals could carry Identity cards, and if the whole of European Citizens and Residents of Schengen States could carry Identity Cards, why can’t Irish Nationals carry Identity Cards?

    Irish People normally carry their driving licence and credit card most of the times. Most of the Irish Pubs could ask someone for an Identity Card to serve alcohol. The Smoking ban introduced in Ireland in 2004 did not have radical civil liberty implications as predicted. The Irish are generally law-abiding citizens. They may not resist carrying an Identity Card as a requirement of Schengen Participation.

    Reason 4:

    There are Security Implications for both Ireland and Schengen countries

    Possible Solution:

    Switzerland and Liechtenstein allow Non-EU Nationals resident in Ireland with a long-term Irish Visa (more than three months) to travel to Switzerland for a short term (up to three months). Why can’t Schengen Countries take the example set by them and recognise Irish Visas for Visa-free travel?


    Currently Non-EU national spouses of EEA nationals can enter Ireland and the UK without an Irish Visa or a European Passport. Why can’t it be applied to legal residents with Non-EU Nationality?

  5. True about it being border free for 5 years, but that has been for security reasons during the troubles. According to the Wikipedia page about the border:

    Whilst it has never been necessary for Irish or British citizens to produce a passport to cross the Border, during the troubles, security forces regularly asked travellers for identification. In recent times (since the early 90s) such controls have not been in operation on the Border.

    More also at the Wikipedia page about Schengen.

  6. Shane Gilchrist O hEorpa

    “border-free travel” between NI and the Republic – it only happened like 5 years ago…before that, we had to show our IDs and have our cars checked etc at the border 🙁

    True about the Republic joining the Schengen Zone – but I need to look up on why the Republic haven’t joined Schengen in the first place – I was always told that it was to prevent rabies from getting into Ireland but I think thats one of the many myths…

  7. I’m not sure that’s quite right Shane – the whole reason that the UK and Republic of Ireland are not in Schengen is exactly so they can keep border-free travel between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

    If the UK did end the agreement with the Republic, then the Republic would be free to join Schengen at least.

  8. Shane Gilchrist O hEorpa

    the UK is to end the Common Travel Area (CTA) agreement or something like that which means we Irish ll have to carry our passports when going across the border between the North and the Republic.

    It’s a bit stupid considering that we are in the EU now.

  9. Alex W

    Whilst Schengen expansion made it to British newspapers (several pages in), do you know why the flagship BBC and ITN (including Channel 4) news broadcasts didn’t mention it? I’ve asked Mark Mardell on his blog so will let you know if I find out, but I find it very odd that there was TV silence (neither a good, nor a bad word about it). The barbed wire was, this week, torn down all over a continent. This is the most important day of freedom for Europeans since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Towns torn in two by the Second, or sometimes the First World War, such as the German/Polish towns of Guben/Gubin or the Italian/Slovene towns of Gorizia/Nova Gorica or, outside of the East vs. West dialogue, Slovak Komárno and Hungarian Komárom are re-united. Even recently created borders, such as those between the Baltic States or the Czech and Slovak Republics, have been removed. As you say, Switzerland will join Schengen next year, thus only leaving the UK, Ireland and the Russian oblast of Kaliningrad outside this zone of freedom. Let us rejoice in such an immense achievement and lament the fact that the British have barely been informed about it.

  10. rose22

    aha! So you were Jonathan, London on the BBC website! Thought I recognised the style…

  11. Ideally, democracy should work through rational discourse. Ideally …

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