The “Schengen Fortress.” This is the moniker that is being given to the new face of Europe brought about by the Islamist terror.
Schengen is familiar to those Americans traveling to Europe as the border arrangement that allows them to travel freely almost everywhere on the old continent once a legal entry is made into one of its member countries. The treaty that abolished the internal borders of the European Union was signed in 1985 in a small town in Luxembourg.
There are 26 countries in the Schengen zone: 22 are members of the European Union and four are not (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). Non-EU nationals did not have to go through ID checks once they entered the zone. After the Paris massacres, they will have to go through such checks when crossing a border. European citizens as well will have to show their identification papers, and in many cases will be questioned and even frisked. It is goodbye to free circulation within the European Union.
Too many Islamist terrorists, many of them European citizens, have crossed the European borders with great ease. By March 2016, the border posts will be connected with Interpol for immediate electronic checks of documents. All police authorities of the European countries will draw on the security data. American tourists should be prepared for long lines in airports and harbors, ID checks on trains and along main highways.
New security regulations will descend upon Europeans and visitors with the implacable rigidity that Americans experienced after 9/11. In France, they call it “l’état d’urgence“ (state of emergency — new security norms that empower authorities to suspend the freedom of circulation, ban demonstrations and perform searches at the drop of a hat.
Armed forces are being deployed at critical venues all over Europe, suspected persons will be forced to wear security bracelets, and the sim cards of cellphones will be linked to the owner’s identity. And more is coming, such as a European no-fly list for air travelers, even for European domestic flights, and a European Anti Terrorism Center for general monitoring of suspect individuals.
The “Schengen Fortress” is being built in practical repudiation of all those privacy laws that Europeans were so fond of. Will Europeans feel less free but better protected? Or will they chafe at the restrictions on their personal freedom? For sure, freedom of movement will be limited and at the very least controlled.
The Europeans will have to adjust and something will give in their way of life, starting with everyday’s pleasant habits like sitting at outdoor cafés. The Parisians who suddenly became targets for the Kalashnicovs of the Islamic terrorists will not be forgotten. Human beings are not impervious to fear and that feeling is palpable not only in France but in many other countries that are being overrun by migrants. The danger is that the killings of innocent people in the streets and in a theater will stoke hatred and doom the assimilation that must go forward on a continent that is changing rapidly and inexorably. The anti-immigrant sentiment is bearing down on political life in France, Italy and Germany: it is particularly strong in those Eastern European countries that finally achieved freedom and democracy. Now, they too belong to the “Schengen Fortress;” so much for integration in the new Europe.
No matter what, one must look ahead, beyond the fear that has become pervasive in many European countries. Europe must find a new identity in coming to terms with the diversity that is coloring its society and allowing a minority to be radicalized by foreign extremist influences.
Second and third generation immigrants contribute to the diversity and the development of free societies in Europe, just like they did in America. Closing the borders is not a solution; Europeans lived with borders for a long time. Securing them is another matter, indeed an imperative, in Europe and America.
The terror from outside must be neutralized, in countries such as France and Belgium, with social and economic reforms that should bring better living conditions in the banlieues and other depressed areas that are fertile ground for radicalization. This is the challenge for the political class in Europe.
The “Schengen Fortress” ought not to be the reserve of bigotry and racism that fear engenders, lest we play into the hands of the terrorists. There is hope only in unity for loftier ideals such as those that 50 years ago inspired the birth of the European Community. No amount of terror will overcome unity.