Schengen, security and solidarity: sending the right message to EU citizens

Research Paper by Mariya Shisheva



The unwillingness to acknowledge that within the area of free movement border controls are not simply abolished but are re-organised, the lack of recognition that the differentiated migration pressure which each Member Sate is exposed to is a consequence of this re-organization and the absence of binding and concrete obligations to show solidarity lead national politicians to resort to unilateral solutions in response to domestic demands to reassure their citizens that their security – which they still perceive to be protected better within national borders – is not being threatened by the migration crisis by demonstrating that they are in control of these borders. The inefficiency of unilateral solutions such as reintroducing internal border controls is likely to reinforce the impression among the national electorates that political leaders are not in control, leading to intensified populist pressures to further strengthen control and diminishing willingness to share responsibility for managing the external border and providing international protection. In order to save Schengen, politicians should not focus only on the economic benefits of free movement – which are perceived to accrue to specific groups such as businesses or highly mobile workers, reinforcing the populist message that Schengen serves only the elite – but on the ability of Schengen to ensure the benefits of freedom, security and justice are shared by everyone, provided that responsibilities for border management and international protection are also shared.