Will Schengen survive 2020?


As the year is coming to a close, FCI takes stock of some migration-related developments in 2019. In January it had become clear that the number of migrants and asylum seekers reaching Europe had drastically decreased compared to previous years, but FCI identified several other key migration questions to be answered by the European Commission.


Work continued between the EU and Member States to complete the architecture of the European Agenda on Migration. The EU introduced important amendments to the Visa Code and 2019 saw important developments regarding the European Travel Information and Authorisation System, a new IT system that will strengthen the EU’s capacity to assess and manage the potential migration and security risks represented by citizens benefitting from a Visa Exemption Agreement as it increases mandatory checks on third country nationals entering the EU. Currently, the EU has little information about travellers entering the EU on a visa-free regime and therefore, ETIAS is helping to close this knowledge gap.


Discussion also continued about the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, as analysed by FCI in a four-part series. Although the Compact was adopted, it underlined strong divergencies between Member States on migration issues, the fear being that countries would lose their sovereignty and be obliged to accept crowds of migrants into their territories without being able to control their borders.


In addition, in April a political agreement was reached at the EU level allowing Frontex to deliver technical and operational support to Member States in return operations. This new mandate will help Frontex to strengthen its cooperation with third countries. New legislation was also passed relating to the European Border and Coast Guard, attempting to give the European Border and Coast Guards more autonomy and operational effectiveness as well as to increase the security of the external borders.


With regards to the Schengen zone, the European Council on Foreign Relations has asked national experts and policy makers from the 28 Member States whether they think Schengen will survive the next summer. While 22 of the 28 Member States are confident that it will, six countries – including France – are more doubtful. For obvious reasons Schengen is appreciated for the principle of free movement and the economic benefits of open borders. However, Member States also continue to view Schengen as a benefit in security terms, as they are convinced that terrorism is a European threat which is best tackled together.

As national politicians from different Member States have already hinted at “Schengen being under pressure”, it can safely be predicted that Schengen, open borders and external border control will be some of the major themes in Europe in 2020.


Edited by: Dr. Olivier Vonk

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