As the migrant crisis intensifies, is this the beginning of the end of Europe's Schengen area?

Opinion piece (City A.M)
Camino Mortera-Martinez
04 September 2015

Alan Mendoza, executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, says Yes

As with many of the European Union’s practices, institutions and ambitions, the Schengen Agreement is fraying in the face of circumstances vastly different to those it was drawn up to cater for back in 1985. 

The abolition of internal border controls was only ever possible if two conditions were adhered to: external borders are watertight, and migrants and asylum seekers are registered and required to stay in the first country they arrived in.

Understandably, given the sheer scale of the migration and refugee situation now facing Europe, this has broken down.

Borders are being breached and frontline states can’t or won’t absorb the large numbers of immigrants and refugees now flooding in.

With only a few signatories prepared to assist and others putting national interests above pan-European ones,

Schengen countries need to accept that the rules of the system they signed up to are broken, and their Agreement is no longer fit for purpose.

Camino Mortera, a research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, says No

Europe’s refugee crisis will not result in the dismantling of the Schengen Agreement. But it may change the way that the system currently works. 

There is little doubt that, if European countries fail to find an answer to the ongoing crisis (or fail to find it fast enough), the Schengen system as we know it will really be endangered.

But, as the old saying goes, crises create opportunities.

The European Commission has been working restlessly to find a solution to the migration tragedy, and is adamant that the Schengen system should be protected.

It is now up to member states, the main beneficiaries of a passport-free travel zone, to understand that finding a common solution to the refugee crisis (including accepting the quota system) is necessary in order to preserve Schengen.

Sadly, that may appeal to national politicians much more than the loss of human, but distant, lives.