One of the crowning achievements of the European Union was the elimination of passport controls when crossing national borders within the Union itself, making the EU analogous to the United States in terms of ease of travel. Yesterday, that edifice started to crumble, when Denmark announced that it would institute passport control . France 24 reported:
Denmark was on a collision course with the European Union on Thursday as it defended a plan to unilaterally enforce stricter border controls, a policy which reflects growing resentment across Europe toward the EU "open-border" policy.
"We see a rise in cross-border crime: drugs, east European gangs, human trafficking, money smuggling... And one of the efficient ways to fight this is border control," Danish Finance Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen said Wednesday on Danish television, adding that the enforcement measures would "be put in place as soon as possible."
Danish authorities have planned to invest over €20 million in more customs officers and advanced surveillance equipment to implement a new system of random checks of cars and passports at its borders with Germany and Sweden.
Today, the move to modify the so-called Schengen system of free travel is spreading. The left wing UK Guardian reports: European nations moved to reverse decades of unfettered travel across the continent when a majority of EU governments agreed the need to reinstate national passport controls amid fears of a flood of immigrants fleeing the upheaval in north Africa. In a serious blow to one of the cornerstones of a united, integrated Europe, EU interior ministers embarked on a radical revision of the passport-free travel regime known as the Schengen system to allow the 26 participating governments to restore border controls.
They also agreed to combat immigration by pressing for "readmission accords" with countries in the Middle East and north Africa to send refugees back to where they came from.
The policy shift was pushed by France and Italy, who have been feuding and panicking in recent weeks over a small influx of refugees from Tunisia. But 15 of the 22 EU states which had signed up to Schengen supported the move, with only four resisting, according to officials and diplomats present.
The issue will be discussed at a summit of EU prime ministers and presidents next month. But the "reforms" of the Schengen system also need to go through the European parliament, where there is likely to be strong resistance to empowering national governments to reinstate controls.
Meanwhile, Denmark is facing pushback for its unilateral move.
All of this comes on top of the extreme pressures being placed on the euro, which is supposed to provide a common currency for the laid back Greeks and hard working Germans, and results on German banks having to finance Greek deficits.
America may have problems, but Europe is in much deeper trouble.